Racism has no home here — and we have work to do

by Rich Barton, founder and CEO of Zillow

Last week, Zillow released a simple message: “Racism has no home here.” This message expresses our commitment to creating a workplace where everyone feels like they belong, and promoting equity, justice and fairness in our company, our communities and across our platform and operations. 

We’ve been asked what we are doing to fight racism. The short answer is: not enough. Racism is pervasive. Too many stare it in the face daily. Racism is also present in real estate. We understand that our commitments and our accountability must be significantly stronger and deeper if we truly want and expect any change. We can and will do more.

As the protests against racism and police brutality in response to the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and more began erupting around the globe, I had multiple opportunities to sit down virtually with Zillow’s Black employees from our Billow (Black/African ancestry) affinity network to listen. I heard fear, anger, pain and exhaustion. Their candor deepened my understanding of the systemic racism that they — and every member of the Black community — have experienced all their lives. I realized that my anger and personal revulsion over this brutal stream of racist acts are negligible in relation to what Black people are feeling right now. Black Lives Matter, and their need is urgent. 

At Zillow, we were founded on the value of “turning on the lights” — letting the truth of a situation shine through and giving power to the people. We believe it is our responsibility — as a corporation, a society and as humans — to bring change. As a company, we are focused on addressing inequities and promoting diversity in our own workplaces, and using the power of our platform to shine the light on racial and housing injustice, and taking steps to end it through our people, research and advocacy, products, business practices and social investments and partnerships.  

Our company. As an employer, we want to ensure we foster an equitable culture in which everyone feels like they belong. We maintain mandatory training about managing bias, inclusive interviewing practices, and equity and belonging for all, and robust manager training around inclusion. And we support nine employee affinity networks including Billow; more than half of our employees belong to one or more. 

We are also committed to improving the diversity of our workforce and leadership and providing great careers and advancement opportunities. Earlier this year, we implemented new recruiting methods to attract and create opportunities for a diverse group of candidates. Last year, we started publishing statistics about the diversity of our employees and leadership team. While we’ve made some progress, it’s clearly not enough. We can and will do more. 

Our research, education and advocacy. We will continue to leverage the power of our data and economic research to illuminate the historical inequities and discrimination that plague the housing sector. There’s no justice in the fact that Black mortgage applicants are denied at twice the rate of white applicants, and the gap between the Black and white home ownership rates is wider now than it was in 1900. 

We will continue to partner with groups like the National Fair Housing Alliance and the Urban League to help identify gaps and do more to advocate for change, solutions and justice. This includes calling on our government to take action and pass laws to fight racism and hate, as we did in Georgia this week.

Our products, technology and operations. As a company rooted in technology, we’re assembling some of Zillow’s top product, design and business people to determine more ways our products and operations can enable more justice, equality and fairness in our communities. To help house more of our low-income and homeless neighbors, we support and invest in Housing Connector, a Seattle-area nonprofit organization that launched last year to help eliminate the barriers that can keep individuals of color from accessing homes. The search tool we built for Housing Connector has helped 745 people find homes in the last 10 months, 70% of whom are people of color. While these are steps in the right direction, we must do more. We invite the whole real estate sector to step up and work together to create a more equitable market.

Nonprofit investment and partnership. Over the past five years, Zillow contributed $5 million to help support underserved communities in their pursuit of home. We have pledged at least $1 million over the next 12 months to support lasting partnerships to fight racism and discrimination and work toward fair and equal access to housing for all.  We have donated to the NAACP in Minneapolis, where we have local operations and employees, and are deepening our partnership with the National Fair Housing Alliance to support a level playing field in the American dream of home. In the weeks and months ahead, we will further expand our nonprofit partnership base to fight racial injustice. 

Personally, my wife, Sarah, and I will increase our own efforts to fight injustice. We have been longtime supporters of fighting racial inequities in our criminal justice system, including working toward decarceration of our prisons, where Black inmates outnumber white inmates 5:1. Thanks to Sarah, this has been the primary focus of our philanthropy for several years, as we support the fight to address bias based on race in our justice system. 

At Zillow, we stand with our Black employees, the Black community and all underrepresented people against racism and inequity. The river of pain and anger flowing through our country right now demands our attention and more action. Racism has no home here — but words are not enough. We all must do more. We are committed to doing so.

#turnonthelights #includeandempower #bettertogether