Industry

Anywhere Leaders Reflect on the Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

BY

Wyatt Jefferies

.

January 13, 2023

Celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy is more than a day off for community service. His legacy is something everyone can embody no matter who or where they are. More than 50 years since Dr. King’s assassination, Anywhere leaders focus on his efforts to improve social and economic conditions, diversity and his inspiration to other leaders. Their reflections on Dr. King’s life and legacy are transcribed below.

Housing was a crucial part of Dr. King’s vision for economic justice. In fact, his tremendous efforts and assassination accelerated the passage of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, a law that promised to not only stop unjust discrimination but also reverse decades of government-created segregation. Why do you think there are still so many barriers to affordable housing and what is Anywhere doing to enable fair housing practices? Also, what excites you most about where the industry is heading?

Melissa McSherry, Chief Operating Officer

Dr. King was a champion for housing, and without his advocacy, it’s scary to think about where the industry would be. That said, there are still too many barriers to home ownership and especially affordable housing, including the lack of inventory, which drives up prices. Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored purchaser of mortgage-backed securities, estimates a current supply shortage of 3.8 million units. For the last 40 years, there has been insufficient construction of homes less than 1400 square - and starter homes tend to be smaller and more affordable. To meaningfully shift in home prices and address the affordability challenge, we must increase the number of homes in the United States. This will mean people can get back to moving from their starter homes after a couple of years or so, taking the equity and moving to bigger homes where they can grow their families, if they want to.

Traditional financing has also been a barrier to affordable housing, but the good news here is that lenders are increasingly using tools beyond traditional credit scores, which may capture only part of the story on a person’s ability to support their mortgage payments. We’re seeing more credit underwriters look at telco, utility and rental data to get a more complete picture of consumers, which is helpful to people who have traditional credit barrier challenges. This credit shift is nearly two decades in the works, and it won’t completely change overnight, but I’m optimistic about the strides the industry is making.  

Closer to home, Anywhere is specifically addressing issues in housing by increasing representation in the industry to drive economic opportunity through entrepreneurship. In 2020, we pioneered our Inclusive Ownership program to all our affiliated franchise brands, following a successful launch with Coldwell Banker. The program is designed to attract and invest in the success of diverse brokerage owners who affiliate with Anywhere brands by offering incentives that support their business growth and productivity. In addition to a waived initial franchise fee, benefits vary by brand and include financial incentives and exclusive education and mentorship opportunities.

Additionally, we have strong industry partnerships that allow us to address barriers to homeownership, such as the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance. The CENTURY 21® Empowering Latinas Program aims to increase representation by providing critical educational opportunities including financial support for Latina entrepreneurs seeking to obtain a real estate license. Increasing representation helps us better serve people from communities who have been historically excluded.

What excites me to get out of bed and come to work every morning is knowing that I am doing work that can contribute to improving equality.  And I know we can do more. When we simplify transactions, we remove one more barrier to homeownership.  Homes are still an incredible way to create equity and drive generational wealth for families. This is crucial for so many Black families, who, because of discrimination and redlining, were traditionally left out of the process. Anywhere is committed to challenging the status quo and honoring Dr. King’s legacy by doing what we can to enable diverse representation in the housing industry. There’s a lot of work to do here, and I am looking forward to doing it with all of you.

Anywhere is on the Forbes list of Best Employers for Diversity. We’ve also been on the World’s Most Ethical Companies List for 12 years. What is Anywhere doing from a diversity standpoint that honors Dr. King’s legacy?

Tanya Reu Narvaez, Chief People Officer

Dr. King’s legacy as a champion for justice and equality guides the way we want to operate at Anywhere. Representation matters and we strive to have every employee across our company feel a sense of belonging where they bring their whole unique self to work every day. It’s great that we’ve been recognized for being a great place to work, a diverse company and a company with high ethical standards. What matters most is that we are still striving for more in our diversity initiatives. We haven’t arrived at this place of diversity utopia, we are aware of that and working on it. We have made great strides with our Employee Resource Groups, but the next step to that is ensuring we have diverse representation and voices throughout all areas of the business.  

Anywhere offers a Real Career Connections mentoring program, which provides a mentoring experience for mid-level employees who are Black, Hispanic/Latino, Asian American/Pacific Islander and/or Native American. This program is designed to provide connections and help our employees of color broaden their internal network – something we know is critically important for success.

Dr. King wasn’t interested in maintaining the status quo, he challenged it at all costs whenever he could. How are you challenging the status quo in your leadership at Anywhere? And how do you encourage your team to do so?

Tony Kueh, Chief Product Officer

Dr. King was an inspirational visionary on how the world should be, but more importantly, he believed and demonstrated that change could be achieved through the Gandhian method of nonviolence. While the work is still not done, Dr. King has set an immutable milestone in our quest for a more perfect union of peace and equality. Despite the rampant racism at the time, Dr. King and his followers demonstrated the power in numbers, influenced and won the hearts of non-Black allies, and continued to hold those standards till his assassination. His followers continued his work because his vision was clear and his standard inspirational.

As a change agent, I hold true to a belief that there’s always a better way. I ask tough questions to seek ideas and answers that bring us closer to the perfect solution. I encourage my team to do the same thing – ask the tough questions, speak up and be heard, focus on progress, and hold true to our core values of respect and integrity.

Our job as leaders is to foster a safe environment for people to drive change, take intelligent and calculated risks, and learn from failures.

What specific lesson from Dr. King inspires the way you lead Ethics and Compliance at Anywhere?

Shacara Delgado, Chief Ethics & Compliance Officer

Dr. King spent his entire adult life seeking fair and equal conditions for all people. That’s what inspires me most about his legacy and inspires the way I lead – his steadfast pursuit of justice and equal treatment for all. Personally, Dr. King inspires me to live by a moral code that is based on honesty, integrity and fairness, and in my leadership role at Anywhere, his teachings inspire me to do all that I can to ensure that Anywhere is a place where all voices are represented and heard equally, and every individual is respected.  More importantly, I have the privilege of working with a dedicated team of attorneys and compliance professionals who also take seriously their responsibility to do what’s right because it’s the right thing to do. That’s a great lesson from Dr. King as well. He’s a beloved figure now, but that wasn’t always the case. He stood up for what’s right, and we are challenged to do the same thing in our roles.

Dr. King said that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Even within our organization, I believe this applies, and that as a leader within Legal and Ethics & Compliance, I believe it is my duty to ensure our policies and processes are appropriate and fair so that all our people receive fair and just treatment throughout their employment with the Company. Further, we cannot tolerate injustice being committed by our business partners and must proactively stand up and speak up when we see others being treated inappropriately or unfairly.  Being a servant leader sometimes means supporting the unpopular answer or doing the right thing, even if others in powerful positions disagree. Dr. King persevered through extreme challenges no one should have to endure, and his legacy is a testament to his tremendous sacrifice and should serve as an inspiration to all leaders.

How does Dr. King inspire you in leading our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion efforts at Anywhere?

Ivonne Furneaux, VP, DEI

While Dr. King’s powerful messages of nonviolence and equality continue to inspire me, I also remember that King faced immeasurable resistance in his fight for civil rights for Black Americans, with his methods, actions and words deemed too extreme. (In fact, a 1966 Gallup poll revealed that nearly two thirds of Americans had a negative view of King.)

Dr. King was not afraid to speak hard truths, to question laws and systems of oppression, or to stand for what was right even in the face of hatred. He recognized that progress doesn’t happen on its own over time but takes continued effort. “We must come to see that human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability,” he wrote in his Letters from Birmingham Jail. “It comes through the tireless efforts and persistent work…”

The efforts we make related to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion are a continuation of Dr. King’s vision for a future that is more equitable, fair and just, and where everyone belongs. In the real estate industry, we have a particular opportunity to right the wrongs of the past when it comes to enabling homeownership and entrepreneurship. The homeownership gap between Black and White Americans is as wide as it was when Dr. King was still alive. And today, Black real estate professionals continue to face bias and challenges that others in the industry don’t face.

We can and must do better.    

This work is not always easy, but I am inspired by Dr. King’s relentless pursuit for justice and his unwavering belief that progress is within our reach.

Wyatt Jefferies

Senior Director of Tech and Product Communications

Wyatt Jefferies is Sr. Director of Communications for Anywhere Real Estate where he leads product, technology, enterprise marketing, client success and corporate development communications. 

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