Advancing DEI: Windermere’s Continued Commitment to Change


Written by: Samantha Enos – Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Windermere Real Estate


Since our company committed to affecting change with regards to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) nearly two years ago, we’ve established several initiatives that have helped us move the needle toward making Windermere a more diverse organization and homeownership more equitable. Guided by our four DEI pillars—community, home ownership, leadership, and culture—we remain focused on finding paths to address discrimination, racism, and inequity within the real estate industry.

Some of our DEI efforts over the past two years:

  • Hired a VP of DEI who is charged with advancing Windermere’s DEI efforts, as well as supporting Windermere offices with their DEI strategies, planning, and programs
  • Developed a committee of Windermere agents, staff, and owners to discuss Windermere’s efforts and to provide input on the direction of our DEI strategies
  • Conducted ongoing DEI training for the Windermere leadership team, as well as for franchise owners and managers
  • Engaged with state and local REALTOR® associations to audit our developing DEI training and educational opportunities offered to agents through our Professional Development department
  • Produced instructional documents to educate homeowners on the history of racially restrictive language in property deeds and how to strike/remove such language from their chain of title
  • Launched a “Race + Real Estate” playlist on the Windermere Spotify channel that offers a selection of podcasts that explore how members of marginalized communities have historically been denied access to homeownership

Sam Smith “Hi Neighbor” Homeownership Fund

Launched in early 2022 through our partnership with non-profit lender HomeSight, the Sam Smith “Hi Neighbor” Homeownership Fund is designed to help low-to-moderate-income home buyers who have been historically underserved by traditional lenders. Through donations from the Windermere Foundation, U.S. Bank, and JP Morgan Chase, the Sam Smith fund is helping to reduce barriers to homeownership by funding loan products for Black/African American first-time home buyers in Washington State.

We have formed a Board of Directors made up of six agents to help manage the program and drive fundraising. As of May 2022, the Sam Smith fund has raised over $127,000 for first-time home buyers, including a personal donation of $50,000 from the Jacobi family to help seed the fund, with over $58,000 raised this year alone. We are actively seeking partnerships with down payment assistance programs in other states to expand our efforts.

Aspire Internship

Formed in partnership with the University of Washington College of Built Environments in July 2021, the inaugural Aspire Internship program produced eight interns, all of whom completed the program and received a $5,000 scholarship. We’ve already seen real-world impact stemming from Aspire, with one of the group project proposals contributing to the creation of an agent scholarship program (see WIN below), and in the hiring of an Aspire alumnus at a Windermere office in Seattle. The program is expanding in summer 2022, with nearly double the number of students participating.

WIN Scholarship Program 

The WIN Scholarship Program was created after recognizing the need to build and support a diverse community of new agents. The program provides up to $2,500 for qualified new hires to be used for training, educational purposes, and relieving the financial burden of the startup costs involved with becoming a real estate agent. The program has made an impact outside of Windermere, as well. Using the WIN Scholarship as a model, Washington REALTORS® has established a pilot program in which they will sponsor one year of REALTOR® member dues, six months’ worth of MLS fees, and $400 worth of training for qualified BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) agents.

DEI Resources

For more information on our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, updates on our company initiatives, and further resources on the history of housing discrimination and its impact on our communities, visit windermere.com/dei.


Samantha Enos currently serves on the Seattle-King County REALTORS® Board of Directors, is a member of the National Association of REALTORS® Mentorship program, and was recently appointed as the Chairperson of the Seattle-King County REALTORS® DEI committee. She also volunteers on the Juanita High School DEI committee.


 

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Windermere Partners with UW to Launch Internship Program

The University of Washington College of Built Environments (CBE) announced a new paid internship program, Aspire, that offers financial support, mentoring, and skill-building through academic and professional office settings to students, with a focus on those from historically underrepresented or marginalized groups. In partnership with Windermere Real Estate, this CBE-led internship will begin today, July 13, and will focus on the single and multi-family residential real estate market in the greater Seattle area. 

During the eight-week paid summer internship, the eight interns will work and study for 25 hours per week. They will interact with real estate industry and academic leaders, while learning about the important role homeownership plays in building thriving communities. The program participants will gain skills in financial principles, sales, marketing, intercultural fluency, and leadership. At the end of the internship period, interns will present their work to industry professionals and participate in tours showcasing a range of processes in the home buying sector. 

Students who complete the eight-week Aspire internship will also receive a $5,000 scholarship, funded by Windermere and awarded in Autumn 2021. This scholarship aims to help the next generation of real estate professionals lead and build our communities in inclusive and equitable ways. Windermere has committed to continuing to support this internship through the upcoming academic year and beyond.

Windermere president, OB Jacobi, stated that this partnership is a continuation of the more than three decades long relationship between Windermere and UW, which started with the first Windermere Cup Rowing Regatta in 1987, and has continued through ongoing financial gifts to both athletic and academic programs at the university. 

“After learning about Windermere’s commitment to increasing diversity within the real estate industry, Renee Cheng approached us with an opportunity to partner with the College of Built Environments on the Aspire internship program,” said Jacobi. “Our goal is to inspire interest and engage students of color in the wide variety of careers and leadership opportunities available to them in real estate.”

Renee Cheng, Dean of the College of Built Environments at the University of Washington, highlighted the Aspire program’s real world learning experiences: “It can be difficult for our students to appreciate the historical role of homeownership in building generational wealth, particularly if their own lived experience includes housing insecurity. This program equips students with the context and confidence to engage with the role of home in the built environment.”

Aspire program manager Alexis Wheeler agreed, saying that “in addition to building intergenerational wealth, homeownership cultivated a sense of belonging and stability, encouraging people to grow into the fullest version of themselves and fostering vibrant communities throughout our region. Through the Aspire program, students will also develop an appreciation for this aspect of ‘home’ and its role promoting a more inclusive and equitable society.” 

The Aspire internship specifically sought students from historically underrepresented or marginalized groups and/or those with lived experiences with housing insecurity. With a robust slate of over 40 applicants, the CBE and Windermere were able to select a strong inaugural cohort of Aspire interns, which includes students majoring in Real Estate and Community, Environment, & Planning (CEP), as well as majors beyond the CBE. 

The Aspire Internship will run from July 13-September 1, 2021. This is an ongoing internship opportunity for CBE and other UW students, offered in collaboration with our community partners.

To learn more about our DEI Initiatives like this one, visit Windermere.com/dei.

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