Published in RISMedia

While our society, and humanity generally, have made great strides toward gender equality through the years, problems of harassment and discrimination persist. As the CEO of the country’s largest association, the National Association of REALTORS® with 1.5 million members, 65% of whom are women, I believe we have the responsibility and opportunity to continuously address this issue, not just for our members, but for our 350 employees, the majority of whom are women.

And I am proud to say that, early on in my tenure as CEO, we recognized these challenges. We were among the first professional associations to create a code of conduct around sexual harassment issues for members, not just for employees. Simply put, discrimination, harassment and retaliation will never be tolerated at employee workspaces or at any NAR-sanctioned event.

But having policies in place is not enough. Organizations must make members and employees aware of these policies and how they can use them in the event that harassment does occur. That is why NAR invests so heavily in time and resources to a large variety of training programs, including anti-harassment, anti-discrimination, and bystander training, as well as leadership development, and other association-wide professional development opportunities.

We require all our employees to take sexual harassment and discrimination training on an annual basis. As importantly, because our volunteer leaders regularly engage with our staff and with other members, we require members of our extended leadership team to undergo this training as well.

As important as training is, we also ensure our staff and members know that, if a claim of harassment is made, we investigate it thoroughly and follow the leads wherever they go. We have investigated every claim we have received from or about an employee or member and, when the findings call for it, take decisive action, up to and including staff termination and suspension of members, as determined by NAR or a local association depending on the context. If such claims involve a member of NAR’s leadership team or executives, we work with independent, outside law firms in our investigations to avoid any perception of biased outcomes.

Like most membership organizations of professionals, NAR doesn’t undertake the responsibility to investigate conduct at the state or local level when it does not involve our employees or volunteer leaders at NAR national events. However, by including the non-harassment provision in our code of conduct, we provide a touchstone that local associations can use as they investigate claims. Moreover, if we receive a claim that is local in nature, we immediately involve the local association, and our experts are always available to provide guidance and counsel to local associations as they address these issues. The Member Code of Conduct also clearly sets forth the process by which members may report any and all inappropriate behavior, including unlawful discrimination, harassment and retaliation, and a process by which all NAR-related reports will be investigated.

We have made tremendous strides over the past few years to more effectively address these issues and to ensure our industry is welcome to all. And, while we are always looking at what more we can do, I am pleased that, for the third consecutive year, in 2023, NAR earned the Great Place to Work designation, which was based on responses to an anonymous internal survey. Roughly 80% of NAR employees responded to the survey, which assessed workplace attributes of credibility, respect, fairness, pride and camaraderie. Sixty-four percent of employees at NAR say it is a great place to work compared to 57% of employees at a typical U.S.-based company.

It goes without saying that sexual harassment and abuse, or discrimination of any kind, have no place in our society and certainly not in our industry or places of work. We are immensely proud of the work we have done, the policies we have put in place, and the training and investigations we have undertaken. NAR will continue to be a leader in enacting programs and policies to address the issue and to share our insights with other membership organizations.