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One Business Leader’s Tips for Stopping Discrimination

Those of us perceived to have power should exercise it when surrounded by poor talk that is not helping others.

Following D CEO‘s June feature story about the women who are demanding gender equality in male-dominated commercial real estate, I got a lot of feedback from local professionals. One such professional, a longtime real estate broker and the founder of his own firm, shared some advice on how he shuts down discrimination in his field.

Here’s Jon Altschuler, founder of Altschuler and Co.:

To expand on the recent article on gender equity in the field of commercial real estate brokerage, here is something we all can do to contribute toward equality: end chatter, comments, and conversations that are derogatory toward women. While we are at it, we should do the same as it relates to racial equity and any kind of cultural inequities.

I have seen three effective ways to do this. If you’re in a setting where you feel your best move simply is to shift the conversation away from risqué or salty discussion, interject this: “By the way, before I forget, how many games are the Cowboys going to win this season?” It always works, even in text exchanges. Likely no one learns a lesson using this technique, but you’ve certainly switched to a more productive topic in no time. If the NFL is too artificial a subject for you, develop something else, but interrupt by starting with, “By the way, before I forget …”

More direct, yet still non-confrontational or preachy, and perhaps ultimately more effective method is to inquire, “What’s the benefit of saying that?” Along the same lines, you might ask, “What’s positive about this discussion?” No one is called a bad person, no one is attacked personally, but the conversation itself is appropriately called into question.

Lastly, I witnessed a conversation around a campfire that was headed nowhere productive be shut down completely when someone proclaimed, “We can talk about the Cowboys. We can talk about the Rangers. We can talk about anything but that.”

Those of us perceived to have power should exercise it when surrounded by poor talk that is not helping others. Not to do so is to be complicit to the negative discussions that hold everyone back.

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