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Keller Williams’ social equality task force addresses unconscious bias after Facebook group controversy

Marketing materials will be changed

Controversy erupted in a Keller Williams Facebook group this week related to the use of the terms ‘monkey’ and ‘monkey mind’ in Keller Williams‘ BOLD Pivot training sessions.

Last month, Keller Williams launched its BOLD Pivot training via KW MAPS Coaching for agents across the U.S, formatted digitally. Coinciding with the paid training sessions is admission to Keller Williams’ private Facebook group for BOLD Pivot training, which boasts more than 40,000 members.

“Don’t listen to your monkey mind,” is one phrase used in the training that was published on its BOLD Pivot website. The term ‘monkey mind’ references a Buddhist concept related to meditation, but surprised some of the Keller Williams group when they encountered it in the context of the BOLD Pivot training.

The Facebook group discussion generated hundreds of comments and included some agents who found that and related terms offensive, while others defended their use or did not want to have a discussion about it in that setting. Many of those disturbed by the phrase called on Keller to address the issue directly, since he had recently set up a task force “to come forward with recommendations for action to eliminate any racial disparity within our company, our industry, and how we can lead the way in the communities where we live and work.”

As of Thursday afternoon, the ‘monkey mind’ language appeared to be gone and on Friday a Keller Williams spokesperson confirmed to HousingWire that the materials in question had been taken down and will be refreshed with new materials for the next training session.

“That’s a constant evolution,” said Kymber Menkiti, Keller Williams Regional Director for Maryland and Washington D.C. and co-chair of the task force, in an interview with HousingWire. “We’re constantly looking at ways that the material can be improved and I think the next session is in a couple of weeks since I think we’ll see all of that be represented there.”

In an email to Keller Williams agents on Thursday, Monica Reynolds, the vice president of KW MAPS Coaching and BOLD, addressed the discussion on the Facebook page, ultimately announcing that the page itself would be taken down sooner than planned. The page was originally set to be taken down at the end of June, when the program ended.

“Our communities – and the world – are going through an important time, which has spurred thoughtful introspection and conversation around persistent racism and inequality in many, including all of us here at Keller Williams,” the email began. “And, we’ve seen important conversations happen in our BOLD Pivot Facebook Group. One such conversation happened recently around the wording of a BOLD Law. While the law in question was already being looked at, with actions underway to address it, we fully recognize there is still much work to be done.”

On May 31 Keller sent an email to agents creating the KW Social Equality Task Force and outlined the company’s approach to racial inequality.

“The truth is that racial injustice and inequality persists,” Keller said in the email. “And, in order to help change that, it’s critical to not only say something about it, but to do something about it. I believe that the real estate community has a unique opportunity to promote healing and reform. The first step is reflection and thoughtful self-examination. Then, we listen. We learn. We speak up. That’s how change happens. We know many of you are past this stage. And, from you, we need your leadership.”

The task force is comprised of over 100 members nationwide and over 800 members on the regional level. The sub-task force groups will meet daily, then meet with the national group again in two weeks.

“Everything from community impact, how do we support homeownership, how do we help increase the number of Black associates in the industry to…marketing unconscious bias [and] how do we impact that leadership, so there’s lots of just different ideas that started to come, that was sort of the first domino,” Menkiti said. “And our goal is now in the next week, those groups will continue to identify real tangible ways that they can impact change.”

The KW Social Equality Task Force had its first meeting on Thursday, in which they discussed unconscious bias within the company, addressing the conversations held on Facebook this week.

“Now, one of our pieces is around marketing and just thinking about how things are perceived and unconscious bias and structures, how are they received and perceived by different groups of people and how can we address those?” Menkiti asked. “Because I certainly think BOLD laws, [and] different communications will all be looked at through that task force.”

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