Real Estate Needs a Rooney Rule


I just got back last night from the NAR Annual Convention in Orlando. There were some amazing conversations, and great parties with great friends, and interesting projects moving into the future. But there was one issue many of us were discussing that deserved this post before I have to pack up and leave for the airport again.

If you didn’t know already (although most of you do, I assume…) Dale Stinton, the longtime CEO of NAR, is retiring at the end of next year. Dale has been one of the most important and most powerful leaders in the real estate industry throughout his 30+ years at NAR, and as one might expect, quite a few people were talking about the change that will come with his retirement.

Now, back in July, I wrote this post on in response to a column by Teresa Boardman about the lack of women in leadership positions in the real estate industry. I wrote that if Teresa and other people in real estate were interested in doing something about the issue, they should work to get one of five women chosen as Dale Stinton’s successor as the CEO of NAR.

Apparently, some people took that seriously. Quite a bit of my conversations at NAR were about that exact topic. One person who took it seriously may have been Pam O’Connor, the CEO of Leading Real Estate Companies of the World, whom I listed as one of the five women we should consider for the NAR CEO job. She gave a speech on exactly this topic at the NAR Convention. I missed her presentation, but Inman has coverage of it:

Real estate companies promote women more often than corporate America. The industry’s associations, however, are not doing as well in this arena, said Pam O’Connor, CEO of Leading Real Estate Companies of the World (LeadingRE).

O’Connor spoke to Inman after her talk on women and leadership at this week’s National Association of Realtors conference and expo, and had a strong message for women who feel they are not in a company that gives them the opportunities they seek — move on.

She would also like to see more example-setting from the conference host itself: like a woman taking Dale Stinton’s place as CEO of NAR when the time comes.

Slide from LeadingRE CEO Pam O'Connor's presentation at the NAR conference.

“It would be fun if they could find a capable woman for that job,” she said. “Other than the General Counsel, Katie Raynolds Johnson and Janet Branton, the senior vice president of commercial and global services, there are not many women there at NAR.”

Out of the top association leaders, five out of 20 are women, she said.

Regular readers know, of course, that I’m Asian-American, but also that I tend to be suspicious of quite a lot of “diversity initiatives” because they often divided us more than they unite us.

But in speaking with friends new and old about the issue over the last few days, I’ve come up with an idea that I think would go a long way towards solving the problem (whether real or perceived) of the lack of women and minorities in executive positions in the industry: Institute the Rooney Rule.

The Rooney Rule

I suppose only the more-than-casual fan of the NFL knows what the Rooney Rule is. Well, here’s Wikipedia to the rescue:

The Rooney Rule is a National Football League policy that requires league teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operation jobs. It is sometimes cited as an example of affirmative action, though there is no quota or preference given to minorities in the hiring of candidates. It was established in 2003, and variations of the rule are now in place in other industries.

This makes so much sense that I wonder why we haven’t done this already in real estate, and again, I say this as someone who tends to look askance at affirmative action, quotas, and politically correct “diversity” initiatives.

The Rooney Rule’s brilliance is that it provides no quota and no preferences for gender or minority status. It merely provides the opportunity to be considered.

I would be the first in line to oppose an “affirmative action” hire for an important position, like the CEO of NAR or COO of a major national franchise company. Those are incredibly important jobs that affect millions of people. Only the most qualified individual, based on whatever criteria the people doing the hiring have set, should get such a job.

At the same time, we also know that oftentimes, such important jobs go to people within the network of those doing the hiring because they’re so important. NAR isn’t posting its CEO job up on after all. And it may be that sometimes, highly qualified candidates get overlooked, not because they’re black or Asian or gay or female, but simply because they’re not in the “network” for a variety of reasons. If the Board of Directors, or the search committee, or whoever is doing the hiring for these senior positions had met and interviewed these candidates, they might have gotten the job based on their qualifications, rather than their gender/sexuality/race/whatever.

I like this idea so much that I started a petition. 🙂

Please consider signing it. If you won’t support it, please explain to me/to us why not. Because I can’t think of a good reason why we should have this at every level of organized real estate and at every real estate company.


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Rob Hahn

Managing Partner of 7DS Associates, and the grand poobah of this here blog. Once called "a revolutionary in a really nice suit", people often wonder what I do for a living because I have the temerity to not talk about my clients and my work for clients. Suffice to say that I do strategy work for some of the largest organizations and companies in real estate, as well as some of the smallest startups and agent teams, but usually only on projects that interest me with big implications for reforming this wonderful, crazy, lovable yet frustrating real estate industry of ours.

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11 thoughts on “Real Estate Needs a Rooney Rule”

  1. The Rooney rule has been a bust in the NFL. Window dtessing that has done little to increase diversity in upper level management and head coaching positions.
    Youth is as needed as gender or racial diversity. NAR leadership is closer in age to the widespread use
    of the television than the internet.

    • Well, Wikipedia seems to think the Rooney rule worked, increasing the number of minorities in senior positions (front office and coaching staff) but I haven’t studied it or anything. But NFL is different from NAR, and I can’t see how this would be a bad thing just to make sure that the Board is looking at candidates it might not have otherwise.

      I do think youth could be an element to be considered for NAR-world, though.

  2. There are many very qualified persons that could replace Stinton. But the true issues with the NAR go much deeper. The division that has been created by a professional Association “in the business of its members” will require much change in the direction of the organization. Serving the best interests of the masses to encourage more dues paying members is not in any way aligned with the objectives of a fiercely competitive brokerage environment. This thing called a “Realtor” desperately needs to be redefined and totally re-qualified. Not all Realtors are created – or grow up to be – equal and classifying all members as the same is much like saying that “all members of an airline flight crew” have the same skill set or an equal capacity to fly an airliner. Not sure in the long term that the NAR – despite its leader – will survive as it exists today. But then again – as is also the case with the MLS – absent a viable alternative what options does any industry have when the only the choice is a monopoly?

  3. nar is doomed, it is bound to fail not because it is not diverse but because it evolved from a benevolent trade association to a shakedown racket with absolutely no voluntary members,all the social programs “Rooney Rule” etc. cannot put this broken group back together again and the changes that are taking place via the internet are rapidly making them irrelevant.

  4. “The Rooney Rule’s brilliance is that it provides no quota and no preferences for gender or minority status. It merely provides the opportunity to be considered”, Notorious R.O.B. Consequences change people’s behavior not the mere adoption of a rule. I could see NAR adopting the rule (maybe) and then doing what they want.

  5. WOW! Dave, Ken and VARE -Are saying what I have been saying for quite awhile now.
    With the internet, I will predict that within 10 years – maybe only 5 – licensed agents numbers will have shrunk to maybe only 50% or less of the numbers now.
    The industry has tunnel vision on inside the city homes. Sellers no longer NEED us. There are numerous web sites where sellers can advertise. There are numerous web sites where buyers can find the home, so buyers do not need us.
    When thinking about an in-town subdivision home, the only real issues are the price. Property lines are established, as are the utilities. Are sellers and buyers capable of sitting down at a table and working out an agreeable price? Sure they are. Title companies and attorneys can solve any minor issue that comes up.
    Agents are no longer needed for a sale of in-town subdivision homes, and that is probably 97-99% of real estate deals. Note that I do not include rural or commercial properties where there are numerous issues waiting to jump up and say “Boo!”.
    NAR is absolutely an unneeded entity and it’s last breath is approaching.
    What do the 400 employees of NAR do for me when they come to (work?) every day? NAR is a monopoly and the industry had it’s roots firmly embedded in slavery.
    I would venture a guess that if NAR and the Boards did not control the MLS system, the membership numbers would equal the number of doctor members of the American Medical Assn and that number is 17%.
    Keep MLS as a autonomous entity, throw out NAR and the local boards. They are dinosaurs from the past. And, that’s my 2 cents.

    • Marvin I just completed 1 transaction, and have another pending soon to settle without any contact with nar or the lousy mls’s,the listings appeared in the internet the contract forms were from the internet ,these establishment people are stupid, they are way out of date, so I do not advocate any transfer of power to the lousy mls’s,can you imagine,they are already dictatorial, without a mantle from the racketeers at nar,so what would they be like if it was bestowed on them, no,they need to go away ASAP.

      • Hi VA guy – We are supposed to conduct business in the CLIENT’S best interest. I work in rural areas and, especially farmer’s, do not want strangers driving or walking around on their farm without an appointment. So, I do not publish their address, or spots on a map or parcel numbers. Now, the almighty MLS has told me that the address and parcel numbers must be posted. Well, what about client’s best interest? Until just recently we had a form whereby the owner could request that the address not be posted. The form disappeared. I sent an email and said that I was unaware that a MLS rule trumped state real estate law.
        They have tried to kick me out in the past. I told them we will be going to court and they always back off. I have discovered that what the franchise members want, the franchise owners get.
        And the rule, “sellers and buyers must never meet” is baloney. When there is serious buyer interest, I sit’em down at the table and we work it out. Every time – 6 to 10 times a year. 100% of the time it closes. I have had agents threaten to cancel a showing when I tell them the owner will be there to show the buyers around and if you don’t like it, show’em something else. I have showing this morning where the owner will show the buyer around the farm, and the buyer agent thinks that’s not the way to do things. LOL! He is with a franchise outfit.

      • I commented some where recently that agents and the system are dinosaurs. There will be less than 50% of agents within 10, maybe 5 years.
        Selling or buying a home in a subdivision does not require an agent. Everything is spelled out except the price.
        The internet makes it simple for a seller to post their home. The internet makes is soooo easy for a buyer to locate that home. Other than price, what’s there to talk about?
        So, why do Bill and Jane need an agent to sell or buy a home? If the people want to work it out, they will, without some agent(s) going back and forth. The old system is dying a slow death.

  6. How bout we have a rule that you had to actually have listed or sold a house in the last 5 years. It seems that most of the thoughts and actions of our leadership contradicts the best interests of the rank and file.

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