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Reflecting the Communities We Serve

This piece originally appeared in the September 2022 edition of DS News magazine, online now.

Over the last few years, the housing industry has acknowledged a significant legacy of housing discrimination and has emphasized addressing racial inequities. It is a high priority for the Biden administration—which announced a comprehensive equity action plan through the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD)—to help close the racial homeownership gap. It’s encouraging to see the strides the mortgage industry and government are both making to correct the egregious injustices that have led to disproportionately lower rates of homeownership for marginalized people. It is a complex problem that will require systemic change across the entire housing ecosystem to deconstruct deeply-rooted biases and barriers.

Those of us who work in this industry can have a tangible impact on building a better housing system for all by working to make our own organizations more representative, equitable, and inclusive.

There is a severe underrepresentation of diverse talent in the housing industry. According to a study by Fannie Mae, less than 17% of the housing industry workforce is Black and Latino. As an industry, we need a more diverse workforce and leadership that better reflects the population we serve. It’s critical that we share best practices and lessons learned, so we can iterate and accelerate the pace of progress together.

In that spirit, below are some of the things our organization has been working on to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within Radian and in the communities we serve. These are meant to serve as conversation-starters, not recommendations or points of pride. Our goal is to encourage you to speak up about the valuable efforts underway at your organizations to further the dialogue and help push our industry and housing system forward.

Why Representation Matters
From conversations about Hollywood movie casting to hiring classroom teachers, more attention is being paid to the importance of representation. At its core, the concept of equitable representation is simple: it calls for institutions to mirror the diversity of the communities they serve. When folks see themselves represented in the media, classroom, workplace, etc., it provides a sense of support and validation. Meanwhile, having a workforce that mirrors the community also helps institutions connect with and serve them more effectively.

For example, a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research shows that having just one Black teacher not only increases high school graduation rates for Black students but also makes them more likely to enroll in college.

According to the Brookings Institute, the population of the U.S. is approximately 31% Black and Latino, even though, as mentioned earlier, less than 17% of the housing industry workforce is Black and Latino. This is problematic because the industry is not adequately equipped to understand the different expectations, needs, and experiences of its customers. A diverse workforce is a critical check on subjectivity and unconscious bias.

Internal Tools for Change: Programs, Policies, and Processes
To help address representational inequities within our organizations, we need to not only recruit diverse talent, but also retain, nurture, and educate our existing talent through intentional DEI efforts. Creating a culture that leverages the background, experiences, and minds of all employees develops a competitive advantage.

Radian’s DEI program is focused on identifying and eliminating barriers that may prevent the full participation of our employees in every aspect of our company. Some of our recent DEI accomplishments have included:

  • Partnering with Fannie Mae’s Future Housing Leaders program to recruit diverse talent into the housing industry
  • Enhancing our benefits program and policies, including parental leave and flexible hours, to provide greater flexibility to employees
  • Providing progressive benefits for employees who choose to become parents
  • Establishing pay transparency practices and a deliberate cadence of identifying and correcting any pay equity issues we find in our organization
  • Enhancing our advancement-focused employee development programs, increased funding for employee resource groups to foster equitable treatment, and continue to create a safe and supportive work environment for all our people
  • Required unconscious bias training for all employees
  • Participating in CEO Action’s Days of Understanding, with programming that encourages candid dialogue, explores blind spots, and fosters an even more inclusive workspace
  • Achieving recognition in the 2022 Bloomberg Gender Equality Index and Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2022 Corporate Equality Index

Designing Continued DEI Progress Into Long-Term Planning
While one-off programs and initiatives focused on diversity can be valuable on their own, it’s also critical that organizations build their commitment to DEI into their long-term organizational planning processes. And although we have built a strong foundation thus far, we know that we need to commit to doing the enduring work necessary to foster lasting and impactful change. To that end, we have developed a multiyear roadmap with aggressive goals to further enrich our DEI programs for years to come.

Highlights from our roadmap for the next couple of years include:

  • Launching a skills-based informal and formal mentoring program
  • Holding managers individually and collectively accountable for DEI strategies and goals in their specific organization
  • Bolstering our diversity sourcing and hiring efforts to build a stronger team that represents our values
  • Teaching employees about the concept of allyship in the workplace
  • Embedding DEI in our vendor procurement processes

Working to Close the Homeownership Gap
Radian has also launched an Affordable Homeownership Initiative, an internal working group of employees tasked with investigating and designing innovative approaches to closing the minority homeownership gap from several angles:

  • Training and education: Work includes focus groups helping uncover the best ways to educate the public on important housing-related topics and homebuying solutions.
  • Affordability: Work includes collaborating with the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) to launch Convergence Philadelphia, a program focused on building equitable communities, promoting affordable housing, and increasing Black homeownership.
  • Local and national partnerships: Work includes partnering with local and national organizations in the Philadelphia area to develop a talent pipeline into the industry, fund research, and support valuable learning opportunities for our communities.

We see these efforts as an important way to make an impact and bring our company’s values to life outside the walls of our organization.

That is the ultimate goal … putting our internal progress to work in service of a more equitable housing system for all. With a consistent, unified effort across the industry, we can champion equitable change and restore the American Dream of homeownership.

About Author: Justin Foster

Justin Foster is SVP of People Experience for Radian, a mortgage and real estate services company that is powered by technology, informed by data, and driven to deliver new and better ways to transact and manage risk. Foster has progressively responsible experience in managing human resources, talent acquisition, and diversity, equity, and inclusion programs. In his role at Radian, he is responsible for enterprise People programs, DEI strategy, and talent development. He holds a B.S. in business management and human resources from West Chester University of Pennsylvania.
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