Talking about the struggles experienced from being a woman in real estate today doesn’t seem as important when you look at the numbers of women currently active in the real estate world. One quick glance at the statistics tends to make one wonder that the discussion is futile because women are dominating the industry. Based on NAR statistics the percentage of female real estate agents has been increasing and these numbers are often mentioned as proof that the real estate industry is not biased against women.
Throughout this article, we will take a closer look at these numbers and see what they don’t show. If you look through a magnifying glass at what being a woman in real estate means, you’ll see the social, cultural, and economic contexts that are felt by female real estate agents on a daily basis in the industry. The journey was long and treacherous, but the worst part is that it isn’t over.
A Historical Overview of Women in Real Estate
The real estate industry started out in 1794 and was recognized as a legitimate business in the 1840s, with both men and women working in it since its inception. However, working in this industry did not translate to equal opportunities, equal pay, or equal anything. While both women and men were allowed to work in the industry, when the National Association Of REALTORS® (NAR) was founded in 1908, its membership was 100% male even if 3,000 women worked as brokers nationally. It wasn’t like the NAR banned women from becoming a member of the association but the requirements necessary for them to be allowed in made it impossible for them to gain entry. One female member was accepted in 1910 but women continued to struggle to serve on real estate boards for the next 40 years.
Up until that point, many women were working in the real estate industry, helping men in advancing their careers, but were unable to advance their own based on male-biased laws. Their opportunities were diminished and their accomplishments were only acknowledged to the level that they impacted their male superiors’ accomplishments.
Getting back to NAR and the lack of women members, the reason for that was that, without explicitly banning women from the NAR, they did require local board membership and those boards did ban women, explicitly. Women answered to this injustice by forming their own parallel organization, the Women’s Council Of REALTORS® (WCR), in 1938. The industry’s resolve started in the early 1950s when most boards dropped their gender restrictions, but only by 1992 would a woman become an elected leader of NAR.
Real Estate Industry: Women REALTORS® Facts
After the industry overcame its gender restriction past, it became the largest trade association in America and even expanded to Canada. While the first major step was accepting women in leadership roles, the NAR membership didn’t only increase the number of female members but also became a pinnacle of support for women as real estate agents and brokers. The current data is something that, as mentioned at the start of the article, will lead people to consider that women in real estate aren’t discriminated against, but as the next part of this article will show, these are just numbers that show how many women are actively in the real estate industry. And that is all that they show.
The latest NAR data specifies the following:
- 63% of all full-time real estate agents are women
- 69% of all part-time real estate agents are women
- 66% of all sales agent licenses are granted to women
- 56% of all licensed brokers are women
With women dominating the real estate industry and the national increase of female entrepreneurship we can see that women-owned businesses grew by 68% from 1997 to 2014. Also, when a couple purchases a home, the woman is usually responsible for the decision. Yes, the house is selected by both individuals in the couple, but the woman usually says if the house will or won’t be purchased. Furthermore, while 18% of the 2017 home buyers were single women, only 7% were single men. It makes sense that women can dominate a world where the final purchasing decision is made by women.
Career Struggles for Women Real Estate Agents
While the real estate industry has changed dramatically towards gender equality, there are still struggles that women experience differently than men, or that simply do not apply to men in the industry. While some of these struggles can be blamed on societal norms, the industry should either understand the way society affects women differently than men, or balance things out in such a way that women aren’t punished for the multiple additional roles they have in society when compared to men. The road to gender equality is long and difficult, but society should finally acknowledge that women aren’t less than men in any regard, especially when it comes to the real estate industry where women can reach higher levels of success while also juggling their other responsibilities of wives, mothers, home keepers and so on, roles that society always drops on women’s shoulders.
Looking at graphics that show wage discrepancies based on gender might anger most women regardless of the average income of a real estate agent. As I’m unable to look at it from a male’s perspective I can not dare to say what a man might think, but just to mention a few industries: Professional, scientific industry has a wage gap of $29,000, Healthcare $15,000, Information $15,000, Education $7,000 and Real estate $5,000.
Yes, when you look at all the other industries, the wage gap from the real estate industry seems less enraging, but the national wage gap of 29.3% in favor of men is plenty.
Getting back to the real estate industry, however, while few men work in brokerages, the wage gaps are even higher in favor of men. That can simply be translated into, fewer men in the field mean higher salaries for them. To top this, with hard-earned seniority in the real estate industry, come higher wage gaps with experienced real estate women earning less than their male counterparts. But female agents or those that work in real estate but do not have a management position earn, on average, 7.8% more than their male counterparts. Either of these scenarios can exact a heavy toll on couples working in real estate.
- The 23% wage gap is decreasing (finally);
- Median income for men is $150,000;
- Median income for women is $115,000.
Limited Leadership Roles
The wage gap in the real estate industry can be directly attributed to the lack of women in leadership positions. The lack of women in these leadership positions translates into their lack of power to impact change and equality when it comes to every aspect of their industry that unfairly impacts women. This can be seen throughout every industry from Hollywood to Administration and the need for change is ever so necessary. Females in executive roles are detrimental to impact change and gender equality, but a male-dominated society is reticent in allowing this change. We can go back to the famous comparison between a male and a female exercising leadership skills and stand up for their beliefs. While the man is seen as powerful, a woman is seen as bossy. When a man gets angry he’s asserting himself, when a woman does it she’s hysterical. These are all examples of how women are limited in exercising their voice when they are contradicted. We can throw mansplaining in there as well.
From the beginning of the industry, women struggled with career growth and advancements, but unfortunately, this is still an issue today. Often women have to work harder, put in longer hours, and generate more profit for the companies, and yet, they are still overlooked when it comes to C-level (CEO, CFO, etc.) or managerial positions in the real estate industry.
One of the main reasons why women are overlooked is that firm ownerships are often passed from father to son. This results in women having higher chances of career advancement if they change employers.
Also, women in the real estate industry tend to advance faster than men at the start of their careers. Unfortunately, when they reach a certain level in their careers and the wage gap increases with each level, that momentum is lost due to the evident inequality they are subjected to.
Women can experience gender discrimination in multiple forms when working in a workplace culture that is dominated by men. While some are more subtle, others are more overt, but both affect the way women are perceived in the office space.
In general, women prioritize family time, or a healthy work-life balance more than men do. While there are those that will argue that prioritizing anything else except for work translates into less productive careers, the statistics above show the opposite is true. Choosing to prioritize health, family, and such and still excelling at your work isn’t an easy task. Also, the fact that women are seen as less productive because they are wives, mothers, and so on is extreme injustice. Similarly, men taking parental leave shouldn’t be considered less capable because of it, but the reason this does happen is that taking time off work to spend with your children is considered a woman’s role. It all leads back to societal norms and how one role is deemed inferior to the other.
As a result, women tend to leave large businesses, switch to smaller firms, in order to become more successful. They are also often leaving big brokerage firms to start their own where they shape a more inclusive work culture. A culture in which every employee is appreciated for their accomplishments and not their genders.
Lack of Mentorship
Mentorship programs are a dime a dozen in the real estate industry, but finding a mentor in the real estate world can be difficult for women. As a mentor can add extra training or coaching sessions outside of the business hours, scheduling these sessions while you also have to handle family obligations can be difficult. Many women find themselves divided between their work and family obligations and often, they are required to choose between the two.
A mentor can be a guide at the start of a real estate career and an inspiration for accountability. They motivate you to improve your performance, push harder, and strive for more. Top real estate agents often attribute their success to a mentor they had early in their career. Women are often required to think outside the box for mentoring and rely on some unconventional mentoring systems. While these are great options, most are subscription-based and lack the direct interaction between an agent and their mentor.
Women in real estate are susceptible to various degrees of questionable personal safety. While time management is a serious skill any real estate agent must have, sometimes your schedule is not up to you. When you have to show a home to a client during their available hours, these may not always be during the day and late-night showings come with their degrees of unsafety. Holding an open house in some questionable neighborhoods can also be unsafe and having to deal with inappropriate advances from male clients in a less ideal neighborhood at a late hour is the worst possible combination for a woman real estate agent.
These are all aspects of working as a real estate agent, but none of these impact their male counterparts, and none are safety issues for them. This is why women real estate agents have to take extra precautions to protect themselves only so that they can do their jobs. Having to meet clients alone can be a safety hazard. Meeting clients outside of business hours can be problematic. Simply put, women real estate agents always need to be prepared for potential risks when meeting men they aren’t familiar with.
Women entrepreneurs are also exposed to retaliation from male clients that aren’t happy with the outcome of the transaction or are just troubled. Stalkers are a real issue for women real estate agents as are unwanted communications.
While the real estate market is shifting towards a female-driven market, with the numbers of female buyers increasing every year, it is natural that more women work in the real estate market. From 2016, there are more single elderly women who invest in real estate than single men, and the impact women have in the real estate world is growing both in the number of purchases and the impact they have from within the industry. Women often are more prone to begin the search for real estate professionals or homes, they determine the criteria for home searches and supply the down-payment.
This shift is an even bigger motivator for women’s equality in the real estate industry as women are more perceptible to working with other women. If women real estate agents get the support they deserve, a real estate brokerage or firm will reap the benefits. It’s basic math. The more you support women in the real estate market, the more your company will thrive unless you choose not to, and female real estate agents will either relocate to another company or start their own. Whichever they choose, sooner or later you might find yourself losing customers to those rival companies and women will still win. However, empowering women and challenging gender bias are the best ways to strengthen your organization and your profit. Choose wisely.
Let us know in the comments below if you are a woman working in the real estate world, what are the challenges you encountered, and which is the response you received when signaling these issues to your employer. If you’re a man working in real estate, let us know what are some issues you noticed concerning gender-biased in the work field. Whichever they are, we would like to know and try to impact change in whichever way possible. Like & Share this article to help empower women in your work field because the change always starts with us, individuals.