By Brooke Wolford
I recently had a conversation with other real estate professionals about the industry’s lack of women in leadership roles. For an industry comprised of almost 60 percent women, this doesn’t make sense. I have been blind to this issue because I am fortunate to work for a broker who’s management team consists of mostly women. The culture within our office is also very diverse.
Out of curiosity, I did a little research. I pulled demographics and surveyed a small group of people within the industry, all of whom are from different areas of the country and work at different companies. The results were mixed.
This is not an issue that only affects the real estate industry, but rather a workplace issue in general. Just the other day there was an article in the New York Times about the Ellen Pao vs. Kleiner Perkins case and the small percentage of women who are venture capitalists. The story also highlighted the lack of female leaders in Silicon Valley. I found this report by Catalyst, which is further proof that we have a long way to go in terms of female corporate leadership:
Now, I believe there are solutions to this problem, not only at the company level, but also at the individual level. Let’s seize this as an opportunity. Here are some points based off of the research I did with my peer group, as well as some statistics I found:
- Many in my peer survey suggest that women are very motivated and have additional skills that can be great in leadership.
- Many real estate pros surveyed said there is a lack of female leaders at the brokerage level. When asked the average number of people in upper management at their brokerage, they said seven, and the average number of females in upper management: one.
- Some said that their companies have had the same people in leadership roles for many years (10 to 20 years or more).
- According to NAR, 57 percent of REALTORS® are women.
- According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women make up 61 percent of the U.S. workforce; they earn almost 60 percent of all undergraduate degrees and 37 percent of all MBAs, yet many companies continue to lag in placing females in executive positions.
- Many people I spoke to suggested that some women are motivated to advance but they seem to get stuck in the middle management limbo.
- Several studies I read show that women are often held to a higher standard than men.
- According to the U.S. Census, women account for a little over half of the population.
- In 1980, the portion of female leaders of the top 500 companies was at 11 percent, and today, that number is roughly 18 percent. That’s only a 7 percent increase – in 35 years!
As I look at myself and look back at my history, I see that I made a lot of sacrifices to get to where I am now. I sacrificed sleep, health, and having a personal life to run a business while simultaneously being a single mom. There were times that I only slept a couple hours a night. A lot of this was my own doing. I also didn’t have a strong support system, like family to help, a supportive significant other, etc. But why should I not be able to have it all? When there are 12 million single parent families in the U.S. as of 2014 – and more than 80 percent are headed by single mothers – working toward success both professionally and personally is clearly not uncommon.
I could go on and on about this, but I think it’s more important to stress that there is an opportunity here. Being the diverse and constantly changing industry that real estate is, there is plenty of untapped talent and ways to improve.
The best chance of changing obstacles in business is to tip the gender scales in leadership.
To all the women reading this: Become the leader of your own career and life. Be authentic authors of your own lives. Take responsibility for your professional development. No one has a greater investment in your success and satisfaction than you. Don’t depend on the traditional management structure of your organization to put you on the path to achievement. It’s up to you to direct and protect your career and to develop your own potential. You cannot afford to be passive or to accept roles assigned to you. Know what you want and why you want it, then be prepared to take action to make it happen. This means maintaining your focus on your goals in spite of any feelings of discouragement. Tell yourself this: I simply will not give up. If your goal is to become a leader and to help real estate industry become truly diverse, then don’t give up. Your leadership is most needed.
Our industry has a huge opportunity. The real estate industry can be the trendsetter; we can create a ripple effect that will carry over into other industries. Let’s not wait for this to happen, lets make this happen.
Brooke Wolford is a real estate practitioner with RE/MAX Results in Eden Prairie, Minn. Follow her blog at www.thehousingword.com.