The History of Women in Real Estate
Women continue to show their excellent leadership skills in virtually every career category, and that includes the real estate industry. However, if you’ve studied American history, you likely suspect that women in real estate haven’t always flourished as they do now — and there’s still so much further to go for the modern real estate agent woman.
While becoming a real estate agent is a great career choice for women today since they play a major role in the industry, professional real estate institutions have had an unfortunate past when it comes to gender equality. Upon its inception, the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) did not allow female members, and even after the first woman was allowed to join in 1910, women struggled to gain respect or hold leadership positions on real estate boards.
Since that initial struggle, women in real estate have forged ahead, making great strides in the industry. Today, you're more likely to find female real estate agents as 55.5% of agents and brokers are female. Additionally, the NAR now reports the industry is made up of 64% women REALTOR®, a truly encouraging sign as that percentage keeps growing.
In our guide to being a real estate agent woman, we'll outline the challenges that women in real estate face while providing some resources to help you get off to the right start in your career.
Challenges for Women in Real Estate
While the chances for real estate success are immense for women, they still face numerous industry challenges. It's true that women dominate as real estate agents and REALTOR®. When it comes to executive positions, however, men still outnumber women.
One such example of this inequality comes from the Urban Land Institute. You may be familiar with the ULI as it’s the oldest and largest network of cross-disciplinary real estate and land use experts. This organization is the true cream of the crop when it comes to shaping policy on the responsible use of land across the globe.
The ULI did a deep dive into their own company recently and compiled a sobering report about how men still outnumber women in the organization's executive positions. Their U.S. Executive Summary noted a glaring figure: Though ULI’s membership base is 25% female, only 14% of CEOs within the organization are women.
Thankfully, ULI jumped into action and created the Women’s Leadership Initiative to combat this unequal representation.They reached out and surveyed 1,200 female ULI members in the United States to determine how they could improve their gender ratio.
Out of all female CEOs surveyed, many note external networks are key to their success. These networks include volunteer activities, business contacts, alumni associations, mentors, and professional organizations.
Even then, when women in real estate reach these executive positions, the problem of equal pay still needs to be addressed. A 23% pay gap currently exists in the real estate industry. This, unfortunately, grows when moving to the C-Suite level, where the pay gap is 30%.
So, while there is definite progress underway in the battle for women in real estate to earn the same as their male peers, we still have farther to go before we reach true equality.
We’ll get into the types of questions you should ask potential brokerages shortly, but for now, remember to be your own advocate. Always make sure you get paid fairly, including beyond your annual salary. Many agents make their living on commissions alone, after all, and you deserve to earn your full share.
If you’re looking to become a real estate agent woman, take some time to talk to professionals in your community to analyze pay inequality issues. With many other women in real estate available, you can get a better understanding of the local real estate landscape and how others in your shoes have dealt with pay inequality.
Questions Women Real Estate Agents Should Ask Potential Brokerages
After you receive proper training to become an agent, the real fun begins as you seek a real estate brokerage from which to work. While this step is exciting and extremely important, you’ll want to vet your potential brokerage properly to ensure your goals and expectations align.
Despite the advancements women in real estate have made, some brokerages will not be the best possible environment for gender equality. To determine if a brokerage is a good fit for you, you'll need to ask some pertinent questions. We’ve outlined the top ten most pertinent questions to ask a potential brokerage as female real estate agents.
1. What Does Your Brokerage Do to Promote an Inclusive Environment?
This first question is all-encompassing and broad, but you can get some interesting answers by asking it outright. One of the best ways for a brokerage to answer this question is by referring you directly to other women in the company who know what it's like to work there. They should be able to tell you about the landscape of the company, how they’re being supported, and what they enjoy/expect from their leadership.
2. Does Your Brokerage Prioritize Mentoring Female Agents?
Mentoring is everything in real estate; many agents find it useful to really learn the ropes. How much mentoring is really going on in the brokerage where you applied? Do they have other women working there as mentors for new women in real estate? Finding out the answer helps you understand what's going on in the brokerage internally.
3. Does This Brokerage Offer a Family Leave Program?
You might be a young career woman who intends to get married and have children, or perhaps you have someone in your life who requires more hands-on care. Would the brokerage provide a family leave program for you so you could take care of your family?
All brokerages should offer some kind of family leave system for both women and men. Doing so helps create a better work-life balance, which only makes for a more successful real estate career. Creating flexible hours should already be something the brokerage is open to without reservations, so if they balk at this question, make a note of it!
4. Does the Brokerage Promote Executive Sponsorship?
Never feel afraid to ask this question since the above statistics prove there is still room to grow for women in real estate. There should never be a wide imbalance of men outweighing women in executive positions at your brokerage - and if there is an imbalance, a good brokerage should be taking active strides to correct it.
The brokerage should be able to answer this question without being evasive. A meetup with employees there should tell you instantly who has executive positions and who doesn't.
5. Can the Brokerage Provide Examples of Training They've Conducted to Help the Women Working There?
Tangible proof is essential to know whether you can take the brokerage at their word. Maybe some will say they help train women to increase their stature. Ask to see some concrete examples of how they do this so you can fully understand what potential path they have to offer you.
Can you talk with the women working there to find out directly from them whether they had proper training? Are there testimonials available from these women that can back up how they advanced within the company? Never feel too timid to ask these questions since you may be spending a good number of years working for a brokerage; it’s better to know that your goals don’t align with their typical support for female empowerment and growth earlier rather than later.
6. How Does the Brokerage Recognize Success for Challenging Work Assignments?
Being a real estate agent is not always an easy job. You might find yourself in challenging situations at different junctures. How does the brokerage go about rewarding women for taking on challenging home buyer/seller scenarios?
Despite receiving a commission, the brokerage should also tell you if any bonuses are given to women when they take on complicated house sales. Many of these scenarios can end up being learning experiences as well, though some kind of reward should also be given.
Advancement within the company might be one reward if not direct compensation is not given.
7. Has the Brokerage Created a Network to Encourage More Inclusion for Women? If Not, Are They Open to It?
What kind of network system does the brokerage have to focus on female inclusion, not simply in the workplace but also in the boardroom? Is it mostly women leading these efforts, or is it a mix of women and men?
It’s a great sign if both men and women take an active interest in promoting gender inclusivity in the workplace. And, if the brokerage doesn’t have such a network in place, sussing out their willingness to create one in the future is vital. If your question is rebuked, or you’re told it’s unnecessary at their brokerage for whatever reason, take note of this red flag.
8. Which Female Real Estate Professionals Does the Brokerage Admire?
Does the brokerage have a superstar real estate agent woman who they admire above all? Many cities have a local real estate star who is likely female based on the statistics we shared earlier, and knowing who the brokerage considers worth remembering tells you a lot about their appreciation of women.
9. How Much Turnover Exists With Female Agents?
If this brokerage hires and loses female real estate agents at a regular pace, there’s likely something about the company or its culture that’s unconducive to gender equality. You might have to research further on your own to determine how much turnover exists with female agents over the last few years, so don’t be shy about using resources like Glassdoor to read reviews of various brokerages.
10. Can Women Negotiate Their Starting Commissions?
Any hints of discrimination toward women may come in the form of keeping their commissions overly low. Ask if the brokerage is willing to negotiate on your starting commission, especially if you have some preliminary experience. Remember, you are your best advocate as a real estate agent woman - you have to fight for yourself and for the women coming after you in order to achieve equality in this industry.
If you’re ready to take the plunge and become a hero of your local community, there’s no better time to pursue your real estate license. The CE Shop has everything you need to succeed as a woman in real estate.