Tackling the topic of gender representation in real estate is a tricky thing. For one thing, there are multiple industries involved – residential brokerage, lending and homebuilding, to name a few, and each has its own dynamics in terms of opportunity. While women may have the lion’s share of positions in real estate sales, they are harder to find in management and C-level roles, though there are certainly individuals and companies breaking the mold.
In assessing opportunity and representation in the real estate industry, there are many aspects to consider. For example, the pay gap: there is a gender earnings ratio of 66 percent among real estate brokers and sales agents, according to a report the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) released in April, “The Gender Wage Gap by Occupation,” which drew on 2016 Bureau of Labor Statistics data. (That’s women earning 66 percent of what men do.) In 2013, “property brokerages” and “real estate sales agents” ranked fourth on a Business Insider list of fields with the biggest gender gaps in pay, also based on BLS data.
Considering that most residential real estate agents are not “hired” or “employed” and work on commission, what does it really mean to say there’s a “wage gap”? After all, a common refrain among real estate professionals is that theirs is an industry where there is no limit to the work an individual can put in and, therefore, the income they may reap as a result. Perhaps it’s more helpful to look at the arc of women’s careers in real estate vs. what they’re earning now. Is it a difference of how much time individual agents put in? Does the gap eventually close over time? Do women move into leadership roles?
Another common way to assess a company or industry for gender equality is by looking closely at leadership. What’s the ratio of men and women in management, executive and C-suite roles? How does it compare to the industry as a whole?
Data is helpful, but it isn’t enough to tell a full, nuanced story. For that, we need voices from within the industry, and what follows is a selection of perspectives from different corners of the real estate business.