Elizabeth Francisco sits down with Antoinette Williams of CARROLL and Lissi Daniels at Madera Residential to talk about the challenges faced by minorities in Multifamily and how DEI and the support of executive leadership can pave the way for a more inclusive and equitable industry. They’ll also discuss how legislation is supporting DEI efforts on a macro and micro level.
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Elizabeth Francisco: [00:00:00] Hello everyone. Thank you for joining PropTalk, a property management podcast powered by ResMan. I’m Elizabeth Francisco. I’m the president here at ResMan and I am your host for today’s episode. “Don’t DIY Your DEI: The Quest for Equity and Inclusion in Multifamily. Today, we will be hearing from two very incredible professionals in the multifamily industry, as they share their perspectives as black women on their quest to be included, to be heard and to achieve equity.
And we’re going to be jumping just right on in, because this is an important topic. First I am delighted to welcome Antoinette back. Antoinette Williams is the Regional Vice President of CARROLL Property Management. And she has joined me before for another DEI topic about owning your career and trailblazing your way to the table.
So if you have not checked it out, I truly I’m asking, begging, go check it out. It was fantastic. And thank you again for that. We had great response from it. You could have two careers if you wanted them.
Antoinette Williams: What? (laughter )
Elizabeth Francisco: So to start us off Antoinette, can you just remind our listeners a little bit about, your career in property management and maybe also talk about, what are the things that you really love about this industry? And maybe if there’s anything that frustrates you about this industry?
Antoinette Williams: So thank you for having me back. It’s great. This is fun last time. I’m sure it’ll be a fun episode this time. So I’ve been in the industry for 15 years and I worked my way up from leasing consultant to now Regional Vice President. I’ve worked all the positions in between and I’ve been with my current company, CARROLL for seven and a half years and currently support the Georgia and Western markets.
And one of my proudest titles is that I’m an executive sponsor of our diversity and inclusion council. So I have I have the responsibility [00:02:00] of helping to just move things along, help provide feedback and ensure that our D&I counsel achieves what it sets out to achieve. First what I didn’t like about this industry when I first got into at you already know it’s leasing. What I didn’t like about leasing though, was I felt like I was at the bottom of the totem pole and I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mindset. So being at the bottom of the totem pole was not fun for me. I wanted more responsibility. And there was just a consistent cycle of doing the same thing over and over answering the phone, doing a tours, entering guest cards and sending those handwritten thank you notes.
It was mentally exhausting for me because I’m a creative and I wanted to do something more. But what I loved about it was really the endless possibilities that I could do whatever I really wanted to do within this this industry. I loved that there were so many opportunities in this industry and I could, go down accounting. I could be in marketing, I could do whatever I wanted. I really liked the possibilities, yeah.
Elizabeth Francisco: So I don’t know if you knew this, but I’m the executive champion of our D&I committee. And interestingly enough, I think as we go through this conversation, I’m anxious to hear what you’re going to share and see what I can learn from it and what I can do to take that forward too. Cause I have a feeling that the two different committees may have different perspectives and ours in all honesty, we’ve struggled with it. I look forward to having some conversation and seeing what I can learn from this. I also want to welcome today a newcomer to the prop talk podcast Lissi Daniels of Madera Residential.
And can you help us, share with our listeners a little bit about your career in multi-family and what do you really love about it? And what are things that might be frustrating to you?
Lissi Daniels: Yes. Thank you for having me. I am the Director of Sales and Leasing with Madera Residential. I’ve been in multifamily for over 15, 16 years, and just like everyone else started off as leasing, but to be the opposite of Ms. Antoinette, I loved [00:04:00] leasing. And that’s only because I love sales and I worked my way up to where I’m currently at right now. And I would say I love multifamily because of the endless opportunities and just the growth, but it’s also for the connecting and lasting friendships that you make in this industry, you can never not say, “Oh, I met you a long time ago or met you with a different company.”
So definitely that is one thing that I really love, you got to love multifamily. And as far as something I don’t like of that, being when I started off as a leasing agent and being to where we’re at now, it’s not seeing that representation of minorities and not seeing them in those leadership and executive roles to where I could say, wow, I want to be where she is at or I have room to grow. And I have an opportunity to be in that position and work my way up. How do I get there? And where’s that mentor or that person for me at that? So those would probably be the cons of it with that.
Elizabeth Francisco: Oh, I couldn’t have asked you to set this up any better, but what a great segue into the into our topics today and, as you’re talking it, resonates with me about the lack of representation, because back in early 2019, I was working to submit a session submission to the NAA’s Apartmentalize, and it was a diversity and inclusion and equity topic.
And what I had planned to do and what I tried to do was I wanted to put together a really diverse panel of women that had achieved equity, the ultimate equity, they were partners in their businesses. And as I worked on the topics, what we’re going to talk about, I had to start looking and I had no idea when I came up with this idea what I was going to experience, which was, I’m not kidding, I think we talked about this back before when we were prepping for FAA in our panel. But I went through, I’m not kidding, 75 websites because that’s where I started. I was just looking right. And I couldn’t find any of that representation in the, the managing partners or the founders. And then that [00:06:00] led to a bunch of really awkward conversations because I’m having to ask people, by the way, do you happen to know anyone that’s a minority and a woman, that’s a partner in that role.
And that really stuck with me about how unfortunate that is. And that’s really what led me into, how can I just do more than want to support DEI in my own company, but how do we go back into the industry and how do we give back and how do we help fix that? So I want to hopefully be a champion of change for that. Like I said to say that minority women were lacking representation might be the understatement of the year. And I think this is a good forum and we get to start those conversations. And like you said, how does that impact your aspirational goals when you don’t see people like you? And that was the whole point of why I was trying to do that.
I wanted to help, I wanted to give people hope and figure how we get there. So during today’s episode, we’re going to have, and continue to have a pretty open conversation about the realities of career progression for people of color in our industry or other marginally represented groups. And also how it can look very different from their white counterparts. Again, I’m very excited to have you two here, and I appreciate your commitment to the conversation and the transparency because you two are both on your way to navigating your way to, no doubt, top level executive positions. But also I’m sure along your journeys, you’ve probably encountered and faced some things yourself on your own on that journey.
So it’s funny, I was, we were prepping for this, we have a lot of PropTalk sessions and we start with our marketing team and we plan these out for a whole year. And we also have different topics outside of property management and operations and things like that. But we also have our DEI initiatives.
And so when we were looking at it and we were starting talking about it, I think I shared with Antoinette, I had no doubt I could reach out to you and you would participate because you’re just awesome like that. And I love you, but I also felt conflicted. Like really conflicted. Like you don’t even know.
I waited a whole week because in my head, I know that this Black History Month is an important month and it’s, and I understand why it would, it brings the conversation [00:08:00] forward and it keeps it relevant and it keeps it going. But then I also thought isn’t that part of the problem, because this is not a February month problem. It’s an every day problem. And so I was conflicted. And you’re going to blush, hopefully you blush in a second. But when I think of Antoinette, I obviously can tell you’re a black woman. I can see you. But I don’t think about that. Like the first thing that comes to mind is everything else, which is all how amazing your ability is your skillset as a leader, your expertise in the domain, and those are the things that come top of mind to me. You’re a rising star, not out of the pool of black women coming up through the ranks in this industry, but out of the pool of talent period, in fact, CARROLL better be damn glad I don’t have a management company or y’all would be in trouble.
(laughter from Antoinette and Lissi)
Elizabeth Francisco: And I mean that for our audience, I certainly hope that you guys will join us for PropTalk in the future where we are going to hear more about probably why her portfolios are beaten you. (laughter) But also, like I said for Lissi too, I’ve been getting to know you and I really excited and together, hopefully we can all help navigate our careers because I have my own set of challenges that are, similar but different. And we can learn from one in each other and help each other.
Lissi Daniels: That’s what change is all about. That’s right. Yup.
Elizabeth Francisco: And it comes back to you, like you said, there is a definite lack of representation in the industry today. So I was looking on that panel in 2019. It’s not like it’s changed that much if at all. There’s a disparity that anyone with pair of eyeballs can see at any trade association conference. As I mentioned on company websites in the makeup of ownership of management companies, in supplier companies, and even among investors. Truly to help are our peers coming up behind us, we need to help this conversation move forward so that they do see those people so that they know they can do it, too.
And hopefully through this conversation, Give them the hope and support to do it, even if they have to do it on their own to get there and to be the first in their markets or in their areas. But you guys were sitting here as examples of we can move forward, but doesn’t need [00:10:00] to be as hard. Yeah.
So the quest for inclusivity and equity starts with understanding the reality of others. I think we were talking about it. We need to understand what the experience is like for people of color in our companies that are trying to work their way up in the industry and in our businesses. And I’d say right now more than ever, given the fight for talent and the Great Resignation, right? You can’t afford to have this unfortunate level of thinking and devaluing of your talent. And it makes no sense. So we want to put it together, environments where people can flourish and achieve their career aspirations. We’re going to dive right in. This is a question for both of you.
I am curious because I don’t walk in your shoes. What do you think are the challenges today that black men and women are facing in our industry right now?
Lissi Daniels: Yeah, I can go ahead. I definitely can say, and I can only speak from my own perspective, but in my own experiences, I think the challenges we face is not being heard, not being listened to. (The goal is) being at the level to where we are just as good as our peers.
And I think that’s where one of the biggest issues evolved and I’ve experienced that. And just having that level: ” I’m just as good as the next person.” Just because of my color or who I am, even as a woman too, that doesn’t mean I should be discredited, and I think in our industry, we see that. We are being compared because “You don’t look a certain way, you don’t act a certain way. Your hair is not a certain way.” And in that to me, that’s where it causes more challenging issues and problems.
Antoinette Williams: I think in that’s right. I think I would say basically the same thing. I would sum it up as cultural misunderstandings and cultural misrepresentation. Even before I get into that, I was always the only black girl or black child in my classes growing up. And so once I got into the workforce and I was the only one, I don’t think that I recognized I always [00:12:00] wanted to have more of a connection culturally.
But it is just the way it is. And so when I really started to pay attention to some of the differences in the way that I was treated and some of my counterparts, my non POC (person of color) counterparts were treated, I realized there’s just a real misunderstanding and misrepresentation of my culture.
So we often hear people say in our industry and other industries that people are not a culture fit. And really it’s that people who are in power positions don’t understand the culture. And because we haven’t assimilated to the dominant culture, we are now viewed as not being a “culture fit” in that the way that we speak, maybe you speak with an accent, maybe you’re from somewhere in the South and you’re black.
Now, all of a sudden you are seen as an educated or inarticulate. Or maybe we like bright colors or maybe we just don’t do things the way the dominant culture does things. And so then we’re viewed as not a ” culture fit.” and I think the other thing is that there are some people who feel like they completely understand who we are and what we are.
And when I get into some situations with people, I hear, “Hey girl.” And I know the difference between: “I say, “Hey girl” all the time. It doesn’t matter if you’re black, brown, whatever.” And someone saying “I’m going to behave this way with my white coworkers. But when I see Antoinette come in, “Hey girl.”” It has happened so many times where I’m like, “How did you just turn that on?” and don’t, “Hey girl” me. (laughter) If you didn’t “Hey girl” them, don’t “Hey girl” me because you’re assuming. It’s an assumption that that’s the way that I speak or that I am more “down” or whatever it may be. And it’s a misunderstanding. I am in a professional environment as professional as every other person who’s in that.
Elizabeth Francisco: Yeah. It’s interesting what you were saying. I think back to when when Katrina hit and I don’t know if you guys were, how many years have you been in the industry?
Antoinette Williams: No, 15 years, I was not in the industry at that time.. [00:14:00]
Elizabeth Francisco: Okay. So you guys came in right after that then. So when Katrina happened, we had evacuees coming in to the state of Texas. And at the time I negotiated with the city of Plano instead of FEMA, because, you know, FEMA can’t get their act together. So I went straight to city of Plano and we opened up our Class A asset to evacuees and I brought in 53 families of a brand new Class A asset. I think we were the only Class A asset even on the list.
Wow. Actually, I don’t think I’ve said this to anybody. At one point I almost left the industry because I had a predominantly white demographic at this particular asset and watching the interactions and the assumptions and the judgements was so hard and disheartening that it was the one time out of my whole career. I almost walked away because I was getting to me and watching them try to look for jobs and how they were going to get out, stay here for good. But what was that interview process? And just, luckily for me, I learned a lot in that process because people came back and they shared their experiences and it was very eye-opening to me.
Antoinette Williams: Absolutely.
Lissi Daniels: Yeah.
Elizabeth Francisco: Hopefully I’m a better person. I feel like I am because of it, but doesn’t mean I understand completely, but I think I got a really intimate detail about that, so much so that I did risk my job just so you all know I’m probably gonna get in trouble. So I do not, I don’t recommend anyone do this ever.
I had somebody just really upset about this perception of somebody they knew nothing about in their unit next to them and luckily for me, I approved all the applications. So I knew that two different credits. And I might have, again, I don’t recommend this, you will get fired. I went ahead and I had enough of this bigotry, this awful conversation. And so I went and got the two files because back then we had folder files. I don’t know if y’all ever saw those, but they’re big manilla envelopes. And I got both of them out and is this person’s going on and on, I knew that I had bent on their credit score, which is down in the five hundreds and the lovely couple that live next to them had an 820. I didn’t even have an 820 and as they were ranting and raving, that’s one of the things that, like I said, I had [00:16:00] I just opened them up and I looked, I was like, oh my gosh, your credit scores are 500 versus 820. I wonder how they’re gonna feel about living next to you. Yeah. And then I called my company and said, you’re gonna fire me. But I joke about, not to bring levity to it, but it was I saw it. And I was, I had no idea. It was like that. I really didn’t. I was sheltered, I guess I was oblivious.
Antoinette Williams: I think that what I’ve come to understand as a professional is that in America, especially there’s been a system built around ensuring that people believed those things about us. Especially in Hollywood, if you look in the thirties, forties, fifties we were drug dealers, we were Stepin Fetchit. We were mammies. We were Jezebels. And that was all they would show us as and as you go into the eighties and the crack epidemic, it was the “black drug epidemic.” And so if you’re in the dominant culture and you have power, even if your credit score is 500 something, you’re still above a black person with an 800 credit score because of the perception. And so as a professional in in this industry and just in America. I understand that when I walk into a room that I’m starting on the bottom and I have to prove myself my work has to speak for me and I have to speak for myself. And I speak the way that I speak because I’m from California. Not for any other reason, not because I’m trying to assimilate to anything else, but I understand that I’m going to have to work twice as hard to get half as far. I understand it because that’s the way that our system was set up.
Lissi Daniels: I was just going to echo, I can definitely agree with you on that, and you have to, work, like she said 10 times harder, but at the same time, you have to prove yourself. And they have to see that. So it’s not like we can just walk in and be like, “Hey, this is my resume.” No. No, it’s, “What is really your background? What is it that you really done? What has, what is it that you really achieved to be on that level?”
Antoinette Williams: And just to add to that, I think early in my career, I just wanted to prove myself and I just wanted to be good enough. [00:18:00] And so there were a lot of things that I did for no money. There were a lot of things that I did and I thought, “Man if they see how good I am, it’ll be fine.” So I was making $38,000 when I knew that other people in similar assets were not making that (little), and I just brushed it off and I moved forward. I kept my head down and I did the work and I proved it out. There were a lot of years of doing that type of thing knowing that I was worth more and now I feel like I’m established enough that my resume can speak for itself. But we’ve absolutely been put in those positions.
Elizabeth Francisco: We were talking about that perception and thinking about the weight. One of the things that I learned from a coworker and, she knows who she is, if she’s listening to this, I thank her for it because she continues to help educate me. And one of the things that she shed light on for me was this concept of, and she’s been in multifamily before she became part of our company for years, but it was this conscious decision to try and act white.
And I never really thought about it from her perspective and as she shaped it, and I don’t want to give away too much about where she’s from, but there are certain, like you said, maybe where you grow up, what the culture is, because it’s not like every black community has the same exact culture either. I would think it’s your family, it’s your community, it’s what’s unique to that region. And so that was her natural way of communicating and talking and actually it wasn’t makes her awesome, but she hid it. Like she consciously made this effort to think before she spoke or how she walked or what she wore or her nail color or her hair color.
And I wonder is that something that you guys have experienced yourselves as you were coming up or do you know other people that have shared that?
Lissi Daniels: I know I have experienced that because I speak very articulate. I’ve always got the, Oh, you’re articulate, oh, you sound proper.” Or “you’re not trying to be who you are.” And in reality, this is me. This is who I am. This is how [00:20:00] I was raised. And to go through those battles and try to say, “No, I’m just trying to pave a way of Lissi. This is what Lissi is all about” was very difficult because at the same time I was trying to make sure I’m mirrored a certain way to be able to fit in and fit in those molds. Because if not, then I will be looked upon as differently. And yeah, it’s very hard struggles. And even to this day, I’m dealing with that.
Elizabeth Francisco: You, that makes me think when Lissi, I think you were saying this about as you’re coming up through the ranks and having to navigate different situations, I guess if I imagine there’s gotta be a lot of weight to that, like it, and I say that just because we have a gentleman in our company, a black gentleman that shared with me and he’s phenomenal. But he said that he was showing me the weight. He said, “When I went to a different company out in California, when I walked up there and I saw I was literally the only person on the entire floor that looked like me, the thought that I had almost instantly was, I can’t screw this up because then people can’t follow me. I have to outperform.” And so thinking about your individual careers and your achievements, and I think about “Man, that’s gotta be exhausting. That weight of not only am I trying to find my own way, not only am I trying to face some adversity coming directly at me, you also feel the weight of having to represent a whole group of people?”
Antoinette Williams: Oh, a hundred percent. I’ve had a lot of behind closed door conversations with black and brown people, especially, about how we have to move in this space. We can’t do the things that other people do. We just don’t have that. We don’t have the space to do that. We don’t have the space to stand our ground in a certain way. Even if we want to argue a point and we know that we are right about a point, there’s a certain way that we have to interact. Whereas we, I have white counterparts who it seems they don’t have to think twice about it because some of the things that I’ve heard people say in this industry… there’s no way, there is [00:22:00] no way that I could, or a Hispanic person could say the same thing and be viewed as a professional. And be viewed as someone who could lead a a group of people. So it’s almost like we have to have spotless careers and we can’t be the people at NAA who are acting crazy drunk on the floor. We can not be that because it’ll follow us forever and ever and ever. And although there may be a funny story about somebody who did those things, they’re still excelling in their career. I can’t be confident that I would.
Lissi Daniels: No, definitely it’s like you always having double the work of watching yourself. And making sure you’re very mindful of everything you say in everything you do, because the fear of “what would they think, what would they just mark on you or against you?” and yeah, definitely challenging.
Elizabeth Francisco: No, it’s unfortunate and I’m sorry that you do have to carry that weight. Because that is a lot, but I also, too, I just want to compliment you both because I know I think your achievements are amazing, but I don’t know if you’re getting full credit for them because you have this extra challenge. It’s not like it ain’t hard enough to begin with! So having the extra challenge, I think, makes your achievements even that much more impressive.
Lissi Daniels: Thank you!
Elizabeth Francisco: You’re welcome. So I was going to say, I wanted to come back to this. Do you feel like black men and women in this space, do they have the same challenges or is it different? And you obviously can only speak from your perspective, from conversations or family that shares, but is it different?
Antoinette Williams: So I think culture and ethnicity play a big part to the answer to that question. So white men are treated vastly different than black women. And black men are also viewed and treated vastly different than black women. So in some cases, Black men have more of an advantage to excel. And in other cases and in other ways they have less of an advantage. They’re at a greater disadvantage and some of those ways are black men are still men. And so they walk into [00:24:00] a room with their masculinity and they have that going for them.
On the other hand, similar to what I was explaining earlier about the perception of black people, especially in America that has been portrayed in Hollywood and beyond in the media, is that black men are aggressive and black men are criminals and black men are not great fathers and black men are all these negative things.
And so there’s also that perspective, in our industry and beyond, of black men just not quite being good enough or being too aggressive. And in some ways I’d rather have a black woman who is perceived as softer than this angry black man who could just go off the rails at any moment. So I think we are treated differently. There are some advantages and some disadvantages to both.
Lissi Daniels: Yeah. But then I also felt like within that situation, even as black women, we have to still come a certain way and present ourself a certain way and not be aggressive and not sit there and voice our thoughts and our opinions, because then we are labeled the angry black woman. And that situation has its disadvantages in both ways. So how are we supposed to perceive ourselves and move?
Antoinette Williams: One of the disappointments to not having great representation is that If we had better representation and someone paving the way to say, “We can voice our opinions, we can do this, but here’s how we do it” and then skirt that misrepresentation or that misunderstanding of who we are because one of the reasons that I think that I have made it to where I am is by speaking up and having conversations and being able to articulate what my thoughts are and lay it out. But I have to go the extra mile to not be viewed as this angry black woman. When I’m passionate about something that I’m speaking about.
Lissi Daniels: Yeah. When you are speaking what you feel and what you love and it’s, we are very passionate and it does come back as you’re upset and you’re like, “No, I’m just passionate and that’s just who I [00:26:00] am.” And that’s the things that I wish it was just a change of that whole thought process of that.
Elizabeth Francisco: I agree with that. I don’t get accused of being an angry black woman, but I do get accused of being overemotional because I’m extremely passionate, too. I don’t think that would surprise anyone, but I also think it’s frustrating because I don’t think when our male counterparts always understand. By the time I’m coming off across emotional is because I’ve gotten there. It’s not like it happened just from this one incident. By the time we’re expressing our passion, the way that we are, we’re getting to that point. It’s because something’s gotten us to that point, and probably for me, at least I could say it builds when I’m not heard. And I’m even trying to do the right things by the company, or just in my past and maybe even on my ResMan journey. When you were passionate about doing the right thing, even for your company and something about you individually is being downplayed or pacified.. it’ s maddening. So I can’t imagine, but it’s very unfortunate.
Obviously we all have our LinkedIn networks and we know so many people in the industry, you don’t necessarily have to talk about companies or individuals or anything like that, but, is there anything that you would want to share with the audience about your own journey and if you faced the adversity that maybe has held you back directly in your career?
Antoinette Williams: I’ll say that I’ve definitely been blessed in my journey and I’ve been able to walk hand in hand with one or two allies from the time that I was a leasing consultant to my current position. So it was less about being discriminated or being held back from my career growth because I did move up pretty quickly. So I went from leasing to regional manager in about five years. So it’s not a typical journey. And I don’t think that the discrimination has held me back necessarily in that way, but I have had to figure out how to navigate some of the biases of my peers and other influential detractors.
And what we were just saying, trying to navigate being viewed as an angry black woman. It seemed like often in my career there would be at least one person who was singing my praises and another who was waiting for the opportunity to cut me down to size. [00:28:00] It’s ongoing. There will always be someone who’s singing your praises and always someone who just doesn’t get what’s so hot about you. I just don’t get it.
Elizabeth Francisco: I’m guessing with you, they were threatened. Something tells me you were out performing somebody. (laughter)
Antoinette Williams: And I am confident enough in that and I have been confident enough in that, in the latter part of my career. Not that I’ve been in the industry for 30 years, no, but probably the last half of my career, I’ve been far more confident in the fact that I know that I know what I’m doing and I know that I know how good I am at whatever it is I’m doing. So when I’ve had those people, it was more about them than it was about me and I just had to stay the course. But there was definitely a time where I was like, “What’s up with it? What is happening? What have I done?” But I get it. I see you.
So I I made a decision earlier, early on in my career that I was really just going to have to stand firm on my beliefs and work hard and address those people head on while trying not to be seen as that angry black woman. Now, I address those people head on and we might just have to go a little bit more toe-to-toe because I feel as Regional Vice President, I am in a better position to do those things then maybe as an assistant manager at a property. So yeah, absolutely.
Lissi Daniels: My journey I have experienced it and in that time, when I did experience being looked upon because I didn’t fit a certain persona of what they wanted, it really hurt me in my career. It was one of those pivotal moments where my love changed for our industry.
And at that time, I realized, I can either take this and grow with it and learn from it and not be stopped as far as my focus and my perseverance. And I did that and I always say two folds, right? Things always come back to situations like that. So then there was a light at the end of the tunnel of opening my eyes to that situation. So I feel like I have experienced that more when it came [00:30:00] to more of the corporate level and it’s been very challenging, but at the same time, it’s been very more I’m more motivated. Like I can do this and I belong here and I’m just as worthy as anyone next to me. So I think if I didn’t go through those challenges at the beginning of my career, I don’t think I would be able to sit here and talk about it. So I always felt like there’s always a great story behind everything that you learn and it’s still challenging every single day.
Antoinette Williams: Amen to that.
Elizabeth Francisco: Yeah. And thank you for sharing your thoughts and your experience because hopefully we’ve got people in our audience who need to hear that right now.
Antoinette Williams: Can I just make a point real quick? So I think I just want to further explain the shame of it all, in our industry in particular, where it comes to diversity. So we’re in an industry where friends hire friends. So if your friend group doesn’t look like me…
Elizabeth Francisco: Most people hire people they’re comfortable with.
Antoinette Williams: And people hang out with people that they’re comfortable with culturally. So it’s more likely that we all have people in our friend groups who look like us, far fewer people will look like me than will look like you. And so one, we have fewer people who know about our industry, fewer diverse people who know about our industry and are brought into our industry. So we finally get some people into our industry and then they have to face these things.
Lissi Daniels: Exactly.
Antoinette Williams: Then it becomes like, “What’s the point?”
Lissi Daniels: Yeah. They don’t see that there’s another level. It goes back to the first question, the representation. And so I think it creates a (limited) circle where I’m thinking, ” If you just stop and just learn and just understand and go educate and just connect, you will learn so much more. And I think that will open the doors in so many different directions.
Elizabeth Francisco: That’s right. What can we do about that? Like how can we change that? Because this can be a great career, period, for anyone. You don’t have to necessarily have a college degree. It doesn’t matter where you came from. Where I lived, I was the only person who looked like me, everybody else was brown or black in my neighborhood. So seeing the differences and just thinking about the challenges they face from not having the same access to capital and financial means [00:32:00] to maybe they do great in high school, cause I know some people that were really strong in academics in high school, start college, but then they don’t finish college. That, sadly, was because they didn’t have access to the same financial means someone that looks like me would have, so we’re gonna come back to that one.
Because that also makes me think about what I call Antoinette’s “drop the mic moments.” We were talking about where does the responsibility lie for fostering an inclusive and an equitable environment. And Antoinette, you said something that really struck me. You said discrimination is not a problem for minorities to solve. It’s a very simple statement, but it’s a very powerful statement. And I never really heard it said quite like that. You were very passionate when you said that to me, I embraced it.
But you’re a hundred percent right. And that moment was not only a “drop the mic moment” in our conversation, it’s had an profound impact on me since then. Because it’s not the responsibility of oppressed people to solve the oppression, especially when they’re not the ones in control. They don’t have a seat at the table, they can’t solve this problem for themselves. So I was wondering if you guys wanted to take a minute to expand on that just a little bit.
Antoinette Williams: So BIPOC people… BIPOC means Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. So BIPOC people can share our experiences. But we can’t resolve the issues without the help of allies and without the help of allies in the dominant culture taking the lead to make the changes…
Say for instance, you have a black female leasing consultant who communicates that our property manager referred to her hair as a “nappy lion’s mane” and tells her that she looks unprofessional and she needs to go home and fix her hair. So now what? Now it’s the responsibility of the organization to resolve the situation and educate the broader employee base on why this is a problem and set the standard that this type of discrimination is unacceptable and has no place within the organization.
The one leasing [00:34:00] consultant herself cannot resolve this issue, right? So that’s just an example of someone who has been discriminated against not being able to solve the problem. And I use that specific example because it’s happened and it continues to happen in our industry and beyond. And no matter how many times we as black men and women share our experiences around how our hair is perceived in particular in the workplace, we can’t fix the issue without the support of our allies. So the Crown Act began as an initiative in 2019 in California to protect against race-based hairstyles and hairstyle discrimination in the workplace and schools.
So we have a little video that I’d like the audience to take a look at to further explain what the Crown Act is.
Check out the commercial here: https://www.thecrownact.com/home/#film
Elizabeth Francisco: Well, first off, thank you for sharing the Crown Act with me and I’ve signed the petition. I think that was a great way you can go and get involved and I’ve been learning a lot about the legislation and the different efforts in the different states. First of all, I just want to say thank you for introducing me to that. I literally had no idea when both of you shared with me that you have faced either personally or known someone directly that has had comments or even directives in this industry about how they can or can’t wear their hair. Just blew my mind.
Antoinette Williams: Oh, it’s so prevalent.
Elizabeth Francisco: I don’t even know what to say. To me, I’m just very disappointed about that. But we can bring awareness to it and we can hopefully help change that. Thinking about our individual roles in different association groups and national association groups and the diversity and inclusion committee at NAA, I think these are conversations to have and I’m sure they’re having those conversations, but maybe we can do more to help bring awareness to this because there’s a lot of things nobody should have to face too. I mean talk about, that’s just who you are, it’s your natural look.
Antoinette Williams: Right, it’s the way that my hair grows out on my head…
Elizabeth Francisco: It’s like asking me to be six feet tall.
Lissi Daniels: That’s right. (laughter)
Antoinette Williams: It’s [00:36:00] like, why do you even care what my hair looks like? If I choose to wear it in braids, which is a generations-old tradition and one of few that was brought from Africa to America. It’s just absurd that it’s even a conversation.
Elizabeth Francisco: Yeah, I completely agree. I still was shocked about that. And then I thought, there’s many great videos on this website, kids not being allowed in school. There’s another one that shows this little girl,, her and her father are going up and they both have braids. The teacher doesn’t allow them to come in because it violates the school’s hair policy. She’s five or six years old. What kind of messages that send that poor little girl? And her values?
So God bless you for sharing it with me. I was going to say too, that there is a legislative effort that has been going on since 2018. So can you tell us a little bit about that?
Antoinette Williams: Yeah, absolutely. 14 states have adapted this as law. And many other local jurisdictions in 14 additional states have also adapted it as law. So we’re making some headway. We’re not there yet. If you add that up, that’s only 28 places that have started to move in the right direction. It’s better than nothing, but this is how we move the needle to make the change. We have to do it through legislation in some cases, which again, it’s unfortunate, but I’m glad that we are making some headway.
Elizabeth Francisco: And the, one of the things I learned from understanding the maps where legislation is active, we’re in Texas but I’ve been in Florida, both of those states right now have legislation pending. I know at least in Texas, it’s in the Senate, it timed out. But this is a time to go be heard. So if you’re listening to us right now, this is a great opportunity to get involved in those petitions, but also to make your voice heard to your local legislators, this is a, no-brainer like, let’s just get this passed.
And thank you. First of all, most thank you for being so open and transparent and sharing with me and the audience. It’s important, like I said, the more we understand the more we can help do. But now I want to switch a little bit more to talking about what solutions look like. I’m a champion of our EEC committee and our DEI initiatives, but we’ve had some missteps along the [00:38:00] way.
I find it disappointing we have fallen short. The intention is there, genuinely, it is. But that part’s been hard for me to understand what we need to do. And I think, remember what we were talking about your “drop the mic moment” and where does the responsibility really lie… I think one of the things I’ve learned that the expectations of leaning on the people who have suffered these discrimination and biases and have been oppressed… leaning on them to help solve the problem, it’s not their problem to solve.
But then I also on the flip side though, it’s hard because I also don’t have all the answers. So understanding how to navigate that situation, I’d be open and interested in hearing what kinds of policies or practices or behaviors have you maybe seen in your current companies or even a company that’s really hitting it out of the park? Some of us are in progress, we’re a work-in-progress to be more inclusive and have more equity.
Antoinette Williams: So everything started last year. June 2020 was a pivotal year in our country. And all of these things were happening and had been happening for several months and it was leading up to this this point, it was a boiling point where companies all over the country just realized we need to do something. We don’t know what we need to do, but we need to do something. And I don’t think that my leadership will be upset with me saying because they’re very forward-thinking but I had not heard anything from anybody in my organization around what was happening. It felt like there was no consideration that I, as a black woman and mother and wife of a black man, could potentially be suffering and not just me, but many people in my organization. So I sent an email to a couple of leaders in my organization and I received some very honest feedback, said, “We knew that we needed to do something, but we just didn’t know what to do. So we didn’t do anything at all. And we’re so glad that you reached out because we didn’t know how to move forward.” And so that kind of started conversations and we developed our diversity and inclusion council. [00:40:00] What that did the first year that we had the council was bring different voices to the table.
So I think that’s the first thing is if your leadership group is not very diverse and y’all are the only ones making decisions and listening to each other talk, you’re probably not doing it. And so first, bring more voices to the table.
We were also really trying to figure out: what’s the purpose of this DEI council? What are we doing? We spent a lot of time building our mission. We did ensure that our language is the same. Every year at the beginning of our session, we start our new DEIcouncil year in November so with every new council, we ensure that we understand what we’re talking about. What microaggressions are, what implicit explicit biases, what allyship is… we talk about a lot of D&I topics to ensure that everybody knows what the issues are and as we’re having these discussions, you know what they mean.
It was very sweet. I was discussing what microaggressions are with my new counsel. Someone pulled me aside afterward and said, “I’ve always told you that you’re articulate, but I never meant it in any kind of way.” And I said “I know that you didn’t, but that’s a part of learning and growing. And so just because you didn’t mean to doesn’t mean that it didn’t affect, but that’s a part of learning and growing.”
So I think understanding even what the language is, what the issues are and talking about it… if you don’t talk about it, it will never be resolved. And something that I’m really proud of that we’re doing this year… We’ve got three big goals for this year. One is to understand and assess our hiring practices. We’ve been really good about hiring great people, but from pretty much the same types of places. My company is based in Atlanta where we have HBCUs, historically black colleges and universities, so if we’re not even seeking talent from the Mecca of diversity, what are we doing? We have since become an approved employer with Moorehouse College and we’ll be able to recruit there, in [00:42:00] addition to where we’ve recruited for many years at UGA. So we’re hoping to assess our our hiring practices.
We also want to understand our company’s diversity. It’s really easy for companies or for leaders to stand on their ivory tower and go, “Yeah, no, it looks pretty diverse.” But where’s your diversity? What level? What level is your diversity? How diverse are you? What’s the ratio of men to women? How many black people do you have? How many people do you have that identify as LGBTQ? How many people are biracial? And I identify as biracial, they don’t identify as black or whatever else they are. So we have a goal to understand our diversity better.
And the third goal that we have this year is to implement leadership diversity training. We’ve done a really good job at training our on-site employees. Because they engage with our customers so frequently and what we found is that we have left our leadership group out. They need to be educated as well, if not even more. That is what our DEI council has done at least within CARROLL.
Lissi Daniels: On the flip side of that, you have those companies that are still at the beginning stages, trying to implement diversity and inclusion and program into their company. With that, I believe it does start with those conversations and learning. It could be myself, but it also could be someone who’s willing to be open-minded and willing to have that change and it does start with those leaders. And I think, if that voice is my voice or if that’s another voice, that’s what’s going to make those changes. But there’s a lot of companies out there that are not at that level and not ready to have those conversations, because like you said, they look at it as “Everything looks good. So why do we need to make a change?” And in reality, that’s where we do need to make changes.
Elizabeth Francisco: Absolutely agree. If I think back to some of our challenges, do you think that an effective the EEI council or committee, can it be led by somebody who’s [00:44:00] not in those minorities?
Antoinette Williams: I think it can be… so one of the other executive sponsors who was with our company for a long time and has taken a new role was not a minority. But she led the charge and she did a lot of self-education on diversity, equity and inclusion. So I think that absolutely. It is possible, but I do think that it’s important for people who are diverse to take those leadership roles and lead. Because I think the perception can be, here we go again, just another, whatever it may be leading this group.
Elizabeth Francisco: It’s a checkbox group.
Antoinette Williams: It’s a checkbox group.
Elizabeth Francisco: Yeah. And that kinda leads me to my other question. So I know one of the things that we saw in our own group, I’m still struggling to understand this, but the participation… it seemed like we struggled to hear what we needed to hear. It felt like everything was trying to keep the conversation going. It felt like everything was my idea, but I’m not the one that should… I don’t have all the answers. I’m not even sure if I have the answer. I don’t know if you’ve ever been part of a group that’s had that challenge on.
So many of these groups are, newly formed. It was interesting because. A lot of engagement in our employee engagement committee, but then when we broke this out, it was volunteer only. And I know you don’t know if there’s a different type of commitment, getting people consistently to be at the meetings.
Also understanding what change would look like, we tried to have what a realistic agenda items. We don’t want to over promise and under deliver, which I feel like we did anyway. Structuring it to get that buy-in, do you see that struggle or when it was first starting or in a company that’s starting it now, did you see any of that?
Lissi Daniels: As our company, now, it hasn’t even hit the peak of that yet. So we haven’t even had the conversations to say, “Hey, let’s have these conversations.” We’re very ground level, it still needs those conversations. And so I really couldn’t attest to that on that end, more or less. Antoinette may be able to, but I would hope that if we [00:46:00] do have those conversations and start to have that buy in, that we make it very informative to where people are comfortable enough to say, I want to be a part of this. I want to learn more about this. I want to make that change as well.
Antoinette Williams: Yeah, so we made a commitment to not have too large a DEI council. In our first year, I think we had 98 people, which I thought was amazing, apply. And we only accepted 17. And so we really went through all the applications, that were very thoughtful applications, and we ensure that we had a very diverse council. We had representation from different age groups. I think we had from about 25 to 65 years old, we had black, white, Hispanic, Asian. We had LGBTQ, we had some of everybody. We had different positions. So we had maintenance technicians. We had maintenance supervisors all the way up to regional managers at the time.
And now our VP of Operations is on the council. But so one week we kept it on the smaller side. So it was a little bit easier to manage and two, we realized that not everybody would be able to make all of the meetings. Once a month is the commitment for the meetings. But we kept them engaged. The people who were not selected to be on the council were selected as ambassadors or asked if they wanted to be ambassadors. So we kept the engagement through email. We would always update the people who couldn’t make it to the meeting via email. And then we would reach out to our ambassadors to help to continue whatever initiative or effort it was. So we’ve had really good engagement.
This year, we have implemented sub committees. So we have an outreach committee, we have an education committee, and we have a planning committee and it’s really just the people who are on the council who are running it all. They get together one additional time per month. Then they put our meetings together. They determine what our initiatives should be and we also talk to our executive leadership to ensure that the company’s goals aligned with the council’s goals. [00:48:00] So I feel like we are still a fledgling council, but we’ve made some really good headway.
Elizabeth Francisco: No, and what I’m thinking about too is we have another podcast episode where we’re talking about retention and some of the challenges right now with The Great Resignation and, on the surface, it seems very monetarily driven, but I really don’t believe that is all that it is. I think there’s a lot more and people want to feel valued. As companies are out there thinking about how they can invest and provide different opportunities for their employees beyond their normal role, right? Beyond that role… there’s a value to experiences and growing your career and being in a group like what you guys have done, which I think is fantastic.
What an opportunity to, for them to have visibility in the company, for them to learn from one another, to think about strategy. That may be, if you’re looking to start your fledgling DEI council or committee, I think those were some great suggestions and that’s the kind of thing I think employees right now, if they’re on the fence because, look what’s happening they see the news, it’s constantly in the news, they’ve gotta be thinking, “Wow, am I the crazy one from sticking around?”
So this could be a really good way to get, to ensure their engagement and retention.
Antoinette Williams: A hundred percent. Yeah.
Elizabeth Francisco: That was a great, great suggestions. So I think too, if we think about from executive leadership, what do you think a good, an effective, not good, but an effective executive champion? Or I don’t know if champions is the right word, hopefully we’re all champions, but what is the effective executive leader look like that helps move their company forward?
Antoinette Williams: They drive conversations. So they don’t hide from the conversations. I genuinely have to say I’m blessed with a great leader. My COO, David Perez, is just very open-minded. He wants to learn and he wants to ensure that we’re doing the right things for our people. And so I’ve been fortunate to be in a position where I can have those conversations. I can present those conversations to him and it’s not just him checking a box. He listens to what you have to say so [00:50:00] you can move on. He genuinely soaks it up and he wants to know more and he wants to know how we can utilize whatever initiative I’ve come up with or whatever we can do to make our company stronger as a whole. So I think, and I think that he agrees, I know that he agrees that this DEI council is not just an initiative. It’s a part of the fabric of our culture and it has to be. It’s interwoven in everything that we do. And we’ve just hired an ESG manager. Environmental, social and governance is huge right now. Our partners are asking about it. Other companies are doing it. It’s just the thing that we have someone who’s–
Elizabeth Francisco: And apparently it’s coming down the pipe that it’s becoming a requirement, more and more lenders are looking to see that when you refinance or if you’re going to purchase a property.
Antoinette Williams: Yep. That’s right. So we have someone who’s solely focused on that. And so the S part of ESG is, we do a lot of social things, but one of them is the D&I council. It’s just a part of who we are as an organization. I would say that executive who is open to having conversations and open to changing things and just trying new things out.
Lissi Daniels: Everything, every day is evolving and I think in companies they’re always evolving for change. I think going back to what I said earlier is it starts with one voice. You have companies who are like Antoinette’s company that are very progressive, where they’re at now. Then you have companies who are not there quite yet, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be there quite yet. It does just take those conversations and implementing those ideas and having that executive leadership that’s going to want to listen with that open mind and be willing for change. I also know, it’s a process. It’s something that doesn’t happen overnight.
Elizabeth Francisco: Fair point.
Lissi Daniels: With that, there’s always a beginning to be able to get to that end.
Elizabeth Francisco: That’s right. That’s a great point. And I imagine sometimes it’s hard to get that conversation started because we’re like “Everything’s going fine.” Well, maybe for you. I was thinking about that because, we had our own [00:52:00] conversations, I’m in a tech space, which does not have the diversity you might expect, and thinking about how we would tackle this and basically you’ve got to take a look in the mirror. I’ll just say what it is. You have to be willing to take the look in the mirror. I’m a big believer in the surveys. I think sometimes people who don’t see the problem early, they don’t see it cause they don’t understand it and, some, who don’t see it because they don’t want to see it. I have learned over the course of my career, data says a lot. For those companies out that they’re looking at starting something, another good way to maybe get that conversation going is to really think about how you’re going to do your annual surveys for your company.
We love Gallup at ResMan. We use it a lot. But when you are surveying your employees, you can design questions to reinforce what you think or you can be bold and go out there and really put questions out there that may have some answers that you don’t like. And the data points you can look at… you can look about just the diversity, in general. Not that that should be the only requirement because everyone I know who’s passionate and wants to be heard and wants to have a voice doesn’t want to be given anything either. But it is important to understand what the diversity looks like in your company, but not just your company, also the levels. There’s definitely diversity out amongst our frontline teams, but then as you go up, it changes same thing. And a lot of our tech companies and a lot of other companies out there… how do you use that data?
If you’re seeing that you have this lack of diversity, as you continue up in your, let’s say your middle management, I think the conversation has to go around to why is that? Look in the mirror and ask yourself, have we really invested? And maybe it goes back to some of this unconscious bias. Are we investing in our employees that are marginally represented or minorities? Do we invest in them the same way? Do we give them the same coaching opportunities? Do we respond to their mistakes the same way? And I think that’s the key, if you have tenured employees, but they’re not moving up at the same rate as their white counterparts? Hopefully, that’s a really good place for us to have a real conversation internally. And I can tell you for us, [00:54:00] we started to see that and we were looking at it and whether it’s age or gender or whatever, we looked at those, but we had to ask the questions, too. So I think those are really important.
Antoinette Williams: Absolutely. When you said that, it just reminded me that, a lot of those people aren’t a “culture fit.” That’s why they’re not moving up. That’s what we tell ourselves or some people tell themselves. ” We tried to train them. We tried to help them, but they just weren’t a culture fit” and they had to move on. So these tenured employees who have worked so hard as an assistant manager or property manager, they can never make it to that next level because of the cultural misunderstandings and misrepresentations.
Elizabeth Francisco: In my past and even in my way back past, when we have wanted to utilize surveys to ask tough questions about ourselves, because you can’t bury your head in the sand and really for an organization to be at its best, you need everyone to be at their best, you need to provide that opportunity. I’ve heard from people in the industry, sometimes there’s pushback from the very top leadership. Sometimes it’s as simple as fear. “We want to do this. It’s coming up. We don’t have time to think through this. So we’re going to put this off until next year.”
I would say to those of you that want to advocate for this and maybe take another look, you already should be surveying your employees, just like you should be surveying your residents, by the way, but maybe remind the rest of your peers that it’s really not their place to put it off because they’re not the ones living the experience. Be open and transparent. We’ve made some mistakes, but we also came back out to our company publicly and said on our company stand-up, “Look, this was a mistake. Our intentions were good. We understand this came across tone deaf. We need to grow from it. We are going to own this, but we’re learning and we’re going to not make that mistake again.” So what can companies do to avoid having the execution take them two steps back because it comes off tone deaf.
Antoinette Williams: I think ensure that you are talking to the right people. If you don’t have the right people within your organization, seek peers who are outside of your organization, who you can consult with to ensure [00:56:00] that they’re double-checking the work,
Lissi Daniels: Definitely.
Antoinette Williams: That’s right. What do you think?
Lissi Daniels: Definitely make sure you have someone that’s on that team that is going to help you not go back two steps and is going to be able to give you the right guidance and direction on that and go from there.
Elizabeth Francisco: There’s another podcast that I’ve been listening to trying to educate myself. It’s called the inclusion, the element of inclusion podcast with Dr. Jonathan Ashong-Lamptey. I wrote down from one of his podcasts that said, “Employee resource groups are like websites in the year 2000. Everyone thinks they know what they are but very few of them are using them correctly.” And it made me wonder, for other infinity groups and not that we necessarily represent them all here in this room today, but have you participated, do you have those in your companies?
Antoinette Williams: We don’t. I had never heard of employee resource groups or affinity groups or any of these types of things because I’ve been in multifamily for a long time.
Elizabeth Francisco: We’re a little late to the game.
Antoinette Williams: We’re a little late to the game. I have a very good friend who is in the tech space and when we were talking through some of our workplace challenges she told me that in her organization, they have an ERG called BEAMs, black employees and mentors is what the acronym stands for. She said, ” Maybe you can suggest that you all have something similar to this BEAMs group.” So this was our very first ERG and that’s how it was developed, but no we don’t have any other ERG. I presume that at some point in the future, especially as we grow.. We’re at about an 800 or so employees, it will make sense to have more specified ERG, but we don’t have any,
Elizabeth Francisco: We’re talking about solutions and getting involved and thinking about representation. I think one of the things I would think about if I was a property manager today, is how do I get more of my team members visible in the affiliates, the local affiliates, state affiliates, and the national level? I know there’s a sincere [00:58:00] desire by our national trade associations to continue to move the industry forward in this regard. But if you attend events, we’ve got long way to go, right? And this is not the trade show events, I’m talking our larger committee meetings, the boards, different things like that in the industry.
So maybe one of the things is think about investing in our frontline team members that are marginally representative minorities or people of color and fund them to go to these things, help them become part of the solution because it keeps it in here talking. It keeps coming back to: Will we have the right people in the room to help lead that conversation?
I can tell you there’s a few that are but they are leaned on heavily by everyone else as I keep seeing that. So maybe a great starting point for us would be… You’re members of the associations, if you’re using any of their forms, you better be. You’re paying for that membership… utilize that because you never know who you’re standing next to. You never know who you can influence through your conversations and just by people getting to know each other that later becomes an advocate that maybe wasn’t in the beginning. It’s really a minimal investment to have your team take off, go sit in and what a great education about the industry to be involved.
But I tend to focus more at the national level these days. We have teams that go to the local events. Maybe you guys can speak to that, but it makes me wonder if I go back to 20 years ago when I went to some of my first local affiliate meetings, is it changing? Does what I see in my level still resonate down below for the most part?
Antoinette Williams: Yeah.
Lissi Daniels: We still have some room to grow. Being on our local affiliate level and being heavily involved and seeing it, definitely some room to grow. I definitely can see they’re trying, but I do feel like there’s got to be more. There has to be more that can be done because I look at it like this: when you have a lot of teams, even team members you’re sending to these events and you see [01:00:00] who’s representing again and these conferences and these committee meetings or just board meetings, all of that. They’re going to look at that and they’re going to say, “Why do I want to be a part of that? Why should I have an interest of that? Because I’m not going to gain anything from that.” How is that going to impact me as someone being black or brown? And in that level is where I think we’re aiming for but we have a long haul.
Antoinette Williams: I keep talking about how a lot of people are aging out of the industry. There’s a lot of people who’ve been in the industry a long time and they don’t want to be in the industry too much longer because the time is coming. We are getting to a point where people really aren’t falling into this industry anymore. It’s less and less of “I don’t know how I got into it. I just wound up here.” The younger generation is very focused on what they want to do and where they want to go so we need to be recruiting and grooming like crazy. One of the ways to keep people engaged is to support them and ensure they’re going to these apartment association events and even higher. I would love to see a world where leasing consultants could go to the statewide education conference. I know it’s a financial strain, but those are the things that we have to be focused on and conscious of is recruiting on a more diverse level and being focused on that.
Elizabeth Francisco: Yeah, I think you just reminded me of something, but it’s not that much of an expense. So let’s be honest, we did have good rent growth last year. We didn’t take the hit the rest of the other industries did. There is going to be cashflow this next coming year. So I think the expense is nominal. Luckily I was being hired at a high enough level position where I could fight for it within the company. But I had to convince the investors. We did carve out money and we took our managers and regionals to the state and national event. I looked at it as an investment in their education. And I think I shared with you, my entire team was diverse back 11 years ago.
That’s where I really started to realize, the real problem we have. I started to see how they interacted and how their body language [01:02:00] would change and how they would be really comfortable back at home. But when we got out into the world, they’d cling together more and they were pretty confident, I don’t wanna take too much away from them cause they go boldly. But I can tell you what I saw from the investment that we put into them, the number one, they start to understand the breadth of this industry and what’s possible. There’s education there to help them grow. We benefit from all of that as business owners and when you talk about leasing agents, you may not be able to afford to send every single leasing agent, but you can run some leasing contests and renewal contests… you can do some NOI contests where whoever’s contributing the most, basically effectively pays their way by achieving this and they can go open up, go have that experience. I think based on what we’ve talked about today, I think what I would do different now is start by having the conversation and not have them be surprised that they’re going to walk in there and say, “Oh my gosh, there’s nobody here that looks like me. There’s very few people that look like me.” Because you’re right, I can understand well, why? It’s not their problem to solve, but this goes back to the two sides of the coin, which is hard because if we can bring more and more diversity into our associations, we can help make that change. We can have, a minority is chairman or chairwoman of NAA.
Antoinette Williams: And you’re a hundred percent right. The value far outweighs the expense.
Elizabeth Francisco: Yup. I would argue we tend to look at our assets and multifamily as the buildings themselves, but I would argue our people are the greatest asset. You lose sleep at night worrying about the big asset. That’s brick and mortar. You shouldn’t lose sleep about your other asset, which is your people.
And third, I would argue that your technology should be an asset. Stop thinking of it as an expense, as an asset, you need to invest in it.
All right, ladies. Wow. Our time is up. It went by so fast. So I look forward to continuing the conversation and by God, one of these days, we’re going to talk about imposter syndrome. Yes, because we keep running out of time for imposter syndrome [01:04:00] and, that’s one of my favorite topics. We’re just going to come back together for just one, dedicate the whole hour to imposter syndrome.
But I look forward, I really do, I hope both of you will come back and join me and let’s talk and show them what we know about running this business, pave the way for everyone behind us. With that said thank you again, you’ve been fantastic guests. I hope the audience really enjoyed the conversation and really appreciate the transparency because that’s brave, too. So thank you for that.
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