Since the inception of the real estate industry in 1794, women have been contributing a lot to this sector. In 1840, the real estate sector was established as a legitimate business. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) was founded in 1908, and since then the membership was entirely male. Only in 1910, the first woman joined NAR. However, for the next 40 years, women have been struggling so much to survive and continue on the real estate boards.
When groups of women were excluded from some real estate boards, female agents established their independent organization known as Women’s Council of Realtors in 1938 which worked parallel to NAR. As per the reports by NAR, a majority of the real estate boards gave up gender restrictions. Interestingly, today we see the real estate industry dominated by women who make up 63% of its stakeholders as revealed by NAR’s 2017 Member Profile. Based on the 2017 overview of the real estate market, NAR also says the typical real estate agent of our times is a white woman of 53 years who graduated from a college and is a homeowner.
Women’s membership in National Association of Realtors
NAR is today one of the most massive bodies with active woman participation. Within NAR, we find women making up 56 percent of the brokers with a license, 66 percent of sales agents, 63 percent of full-time sales agents, and 69 percent of part-time sales agents.
Women are not in leadership roles
Though women are dominating the real estate industry excluding in the highly profitable commercial real estate market, they are not seen occupying a fair number of high profile positions when compared to men. We get this observation from the 2015 survey about women in leadership undertaken by the Urban Land Institute.
In the real estate and the land use organization, women are seen occupying about 25 percent of the membership. However, they make up only 14 percent of the CEOs. A study report published by ULI’s Women’s Leadership Initiative observes, “Women are much more likely to be at the helm of smaller organizations. Some start their businesses to create a workplace that reflects their values. Others find it easier to advance in smaller firms than larger ones.”
Among those surviving in these larger organizations, only about 12 percent are occupying the roles of president, CEO and the executive director in addition to other administrative positions. Among the female CEOs, only 7 percent are seen leading companies with more than 100 employees.
Women are not paid equal to men in high profile positions
Tami Bonnell, the CEO of Exit Realty heads over 600 offices and leads more than 30,000 agents. Bonnel says her company has been doing an exceptional job in choosing the right candidates for the posts regardless of gender. Hence in Exit Realty, we find women making up about 75 percent of the top leaders in the positions of vice president and even above.
Bonnell says the secret of her success was the timing she followed. She had three children, and her husband was prepared to take care of them at home when they were young. She waited till her children grew up to assume high-level positions that demanded much traveling.
Bonnell says a majority of women entering the real estate market wish to earn a standard commission according to their performance and it is so unfortunate that there is an excellent degree of pay inequality at the higher level positions. Bonnell recalls her earlier experience when she was denied a job position despite being better qualified since the male candidate competing for the spot had a family to take care of. Bonnell remorsefully says she too had a family to support. Summing up about the real estate industry, she says, “The industry has been pretty archaic for a long time. I think it’s getting easier.”
Bonnell’s advice for aspiring women
Bonnell is an inspiring personality. She has been motivating a lot of aspiring women to do well in their careers and achieve success through persistent efforts. Advising women on progressing on the career ladder, she says, “Keep aspiring to be better. Pay attention to opportunities even if you’re concerned there are others in the ring. It makes you stronger, better at negotiating. Go up the ladder. Don’t skip too many rungs.”
According to Bonnell, every step teaches us the art of handling stress and responsibilities. She also says it is a must to network with experienced people, get mentored and learn the ropes. Commenting on why many women are not able to shine, she says it could be because men are independent in standing up themselves. She insists that women must demand being paid on par with what men receive in similar roles.
Another inspiring example of Jo Ann Stevens
Jo Ann Stevens of Lane Real Estate near Houston is yet another startling figure whose story and message are inspiring. She left corporate America 30 years back. Before that, she was the head of the Chamber of Commerce Board, head of the national division of a Fortune 1000 title company, and treasurer of the economic and development council committee.
Stevens remarks, “Women have to be knowledgeable on the subject they are discussing and professionally conduct themselves to be considered a peer by their male colleagues.”
Interestingly, Stevens is also the president-elect of the Women’s Council. She entered this field during the late 1980s and had witnessed great progress since then. Not satisfied with the growth, she says, “Men still run many of our real estate association and brokerages, but I do see women stepping up and reaching out.”
Women in the real estate industry
Commenting on the advantages of women being in the real estate industry, Stevens says, “Despite the challenges, being a woman in real estate today has its advantages, especially with female clients making most of the home buying decisions.”
The CREW report says some of the most notable barriers preventing many women from succeeding are the lack of a mentor, limited opportunities and the discrimination based on gender.