Compliance Violations and #MeToo

Posted On: July 5, 2019

Last week, at Apartmentalize in Denver, the topic of Compliance Violations was spoken about in the session, “Compliance Violations: Violence in the Workplace and #MeToo.”

Sue Ansel, the President/CEO of Gables Residential, Cindy Clare, the COO of Bell Partners, and Kristina O’Hare, the Director of Talent Development at MAA were the speakers on this topic.

The topic of sexual harassment and inequality took up the majority of the discussion at the beginning of the session. In 2018, the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) reported sexual harassment claims were up 13.6% YoY, which is most likely due to the significant impact of the #MeToo movement. Although these numbers have increased in the broad demographic of the EEOC, many multifamily executives have said they haven’t seen any change in claims. These executives did, however, mention how there has definitely been an increase in awareness around the topic of sexual harassment. Many of the male executives did mention how they felt that the increase in female leadership in the industry is critical to building an ethical culture in the industry where all can feel respected.

When the EEOC numbers and the market research answers (from the industry executives) were presented, Sue Ansel wanted to add to the proposition of increased female leadership. She clarified that more female leadership shouldn’t just be the focus that the industry should aspire for, but rather a push for more diverse leadership, in general, should be the strive. 

With the conversation topic turning to diversity, Cindy Clare mentioned a metaphor suggesting that “inclusion” isn’t “just being invited to the party,” but rather it’s “being asked to dance at the party.” In other words, there’s a difference between “diversity as an obligation” and “diversity as a preferred choice.” It’s when diversity is the “preferred choice” that a company’s productivity and compliance can be streamlined.

Ultimately, one of the strongest points that all three speakers seemed to agree on was: “Evidence of Compliance doesn’t just mean that you and your employees went through a training course about laws/regulations. It’s proving that you and your employees understand and abide by the laws/regulations.”

So the main things to take away from this session boiled down to how compliance needs to be a priority for companies. Just assigning training sessions for your employees to mindlessly complete does not cut it. But rather, making sure your employees have the knowledge and CAN PROVE they have the knowledge is how your company will confidently stay compliant. The other thing to take away was the emphasis on increasing diversity in the industry and not just the diversity of the workers, but also the diversity of the executives/leaders of the industry.

With these ideas taken into account, the speakers encouraged the attendees of the session to actively pursue a healthy and compliant culture for their company. They suggested advice like:

  • Finding a communication style that works best for your company.
  • Don’t make decisions in a vacuum. Listen to others’ perspectives who might have an insight into things that you have a “blind spot” to.
  • Don’t let the fear of compliance keep you from moving your company along. Make decisions and adapt when you make mistakes.
  • “If you’re a leader, be the last person to voice your opinion. Understand that no one’s opinion is going to be 100% right. And when mistakes are made, learn from them quickly and keep going.” -Sue Ansel


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