Real estate needs more women in leadership roles

Broker's Notebook

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One of the reasons I was attracted to being a real estate agent is because there is no glass ceiling for agents. Women are paid the same amount — and the same way — men are paid.

There are more women working as real estate agents than men, and we sell more real estate than men sell. There are all kinds of theories as to why we are good at it, but we are.

Working with buyers and sellers isn’t at all like working in a putty-colored cubicle at a large company and taking orders from the man in the corner office. I have never felt any kind discrimination meeting with home buyers or sellers.

It’s alright for a woman to be a real estate agent, and it’s alright to be over 40. My clients are totally convinced I can do a great job for them, and they are the only people I have to convince. For the first time in my life, I feel like I am competing on a level playing field and I can succeed.

Throughout my career in corporate America I was always a trail blazer and a leader. Being the token woman leader in my department or division was not what I had in mind when I graduated from college. What was I thinking? I should have been focused on doing something meaningful with my work life.

It took me decades to understand that I could never really reach my full potential because of the enormous amount of energy I expended trying to fight a system that has limited womens’ income and career opportunities for decades. I want women everywhere to start businesses.

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I love the freedom that I have as a real estate agent to be myself. It is amazing and liberating. I can be creative, smart, empathetic, nurturing and authoritative without penalty. I can swear when appropriate and wear two pairs of glasses when I want to.

I may be a woman and maybe I am not young anymore, but I sell real estate. No one can stop me, and life is good.

It is my hope that more women learn how to empower themselves and build on their own strengths, instead of always focusing on their weaknesses. Women should lead their own businesses, or build companies, instead of struggling to succeed in institutions where men thrive while women barely survive.

The world of real estate management and leadership is male dominated but that does not impact my business. Real estate sales is not about corporations, brands, or technology. It is about people and their homes.

There is a lot of room right inside the real estate industry to invent and create things that real estate practitioners can actually use.

As I watched a video of the "New Kids on the Block" at the Real Estate Connect conference, I was not surprised that everyone on stage was male. There are more men working in all levels in the technology industry than there are women. I don’t think Inman News went out of their way to keep women off the stage. I don’t think there were many women who could take the stage in that arena.

All of the speakers or facilitators for the RETSO (Real Estate Technology South) conference, which is aimed at real estate professionals, are male, and there are seven of them. I am not picking on RETSO — it is an excellent event, and even though it was founded by men and run by men, they let me be up on the main stage a couple of times.

There could be more women on stage if more wanted to be there and asked. Men ask, while women wait for an invitation that will never come.

Only 26 percent of the "100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders" identified by Inman News are women. The National Association of Realtors has one woman and one man working in "digital engagement." I could not help but notice that the man made the Inman News "Most Influential" list, and the woman did not.

NAR is a membership organization with more women members than men. The current NAR "leadership team" is all male, and NAR is focused on attracting younger members by hosting social events.

In the 1980s, I never would have imagined that in 2013 I would be writing something like this.

Women have been in the workforce for decades and have made very little progress. We still make an average of 77 cents for every dollar men make.

Why aren’t there more women in leadership roles in the real estate industry when we have so many women in the industry at all levels? Should we care?

Women need to speak up, and we need to set goals for ourselves and decide what success is and plot our own course.

Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.

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