As part of Women’s History Month, men and women across the globe have been celebrating the contributions women have made to society-at-large despite facing discrimination at home, school and work.
But while women have made some considerable cracks in the glass ceiling, much progress is yet to be made. According to Coldwell Banker’s Women in Leadership Survey of more than 2,000 working Americans released in February, 14 percent of men working in female-dominated industries have an executive position, compared to just eight percent of women.
Those statistics mirror the real estate industry, where women account for 63 percent of all Realtors yet more men lead companies as a broker-owner (52 percent) or selling manager (57 percent), according to The National Association of Realtors’ latest member profile.
Zoë Horneck, Coldwell Banker’s vice president of product marketing and communications, sat down with Inman to give further insight into this year’s survey results and share what can be done to even the playing field for women in the industry.
The survey results indicate that while real estate is a female-dominated industry, few women have risen to executive positions. What are the reasons behind that disparity?
My observation based on the survey results is that women may not even be aware of the opportunities that are available. One of the reasons why is if there’s no formal management training, then they don’t even know what’s possible.
One of the survey results was that 40 percent of people said there was no management training [in their office], and so to me, that was a clear indicator that without that [training], we’re not being transparent about what’s available.
Besides the formal management training, women are not as comfortable asking for raises and I think that fear probably trickles down when it comes to looking into future opportunities.
Where does that fear come from? Why are women less likely to ask for raises or go for those executive positions?
I think there is a little bit of our history that comes out here. As women, we’ve sort of been conditioned to act a certain way for a long time. Even though it’s very different today and we’re still not there, how we’ve been conditioned continues to be passed down from generations even if its just small nuances. So, I think its all of our jobs to make sure that we get rid of the past and move forward.
I think some of the ways we can move forward — besides formal management training opportunities — is creating formal mentorship programs as well as helping women find sponsors to work with. And when I say “sponsors,” it’s referring to who’s gonna be in the room speaking for you when you’re not in the room.
So, I think it comes down to mentorship, sponsorship and formal training.
But, I want to be really clear that it’s just not about having women in executive positions because you can be a leader at different levels. But we really want to make sure we’re providing the resources so women have the tools to not be afraid to pursue executive-level positions, if that’s what they want.
The survey also revealed that 48 percent of women in the U.S. workforce said “women have to work harder than men to earn an executive level position.” Why so?
I think we could be more transparent on what leadership looks like and what opportunities are out there, and again, going back to this point, because it’s a super important one — we need formal management training. If you make sure that all of your employees or network (or however you’ve structured your company) are provided with this training, then they will know exactly what it takes to get to certain positions.
For example, as part of our Women In Leadership series at Coldwell Banker, one of the first things we started was a monthly series of women in our network sharing their stories. I think if we continue to promote those stories and be more transparent on the steps to get to certain positions, women will begin to hear similarities in their own stories. [The series] also highlights that there’s not only one path to success.
And hopefully we won’t see in future survey results that women have to work harder — everyone should work hard.
So, beyond the yearly survey and the monthly series highlighting women in leadership roles at Coldwell Banker, what else is the company doing to alleviate gender inequality in the workplace?
So we’re continuing the monthly Women In Leadership series and we’ve turned it into a podcast. We just recorded our first episode this past week. And we’re actually going to be having a Women in Leadership Month in the month of May, which we’re really excited about.
We’re basically going to be doing a content blitz of many stories as possible about the women in our network. Our affiliates can take that content and add to it, localize it, and do their own events.
We are also really excited to be sponsoring two events this year. One is the California Association of Realtors’ first WomanUp! national event this year where we are the platinum sponsors, and then there’s She’s Unstoppable real estate conference, which is happening at the beginning of April.
It’s great that Coldwell Banker is tackling this issue at the brand level. But what can broker-owners do on an office level to make sure the women on their team are properly appreciated, supported and compensated?
I would hope they’re implementing all the programs we’re offering at the brand level and then taking that and localizing it.
I know that some of our companies already do this, but broker-owners should have a mentorship program, even if it’s an informal mentorship program, where they’re helping women who want to be partnered with somebody else who has more experience in the business at an executive level.
When somebody comes up to you and asks you for that [mentorship], broker-owners should be able to take that on and try to help them because [the initiative to ask] means they have the drive.
They should also create more networking opportunities for women in their network and that allows them to understand the different paths they can take. Lastly, being a good listener and noticing when someone is ready for, or is wanting to take on, a new position is a good thing.
Last, but certainly not least, what are some small, beginning steps women can take today to become more assertive and better leaders in their workspaces?
They’re Realtors, and they have to sell themselves every day, so I’d hope they’d be comfortable speaking up. But when you’re new to the business, it can be a little harder. One of the things I love to suggest that makes me really uncomfortable but brings me out my shell, is taking improvisation classes.
It’s a funny recommendation, but it really challenges you to come out of your shell and role play. We talk about role play all the time in real estate so you can anticipate the types of responses you’re going to get, so I think if you’re looking for that extra push, improv class is a great way to get you out of your shell.
Also, you should find a mentor. It’s okay to ask somebody you don’t know that well, if you respect them and think they’re on a path that you’d like to be on, for help. It’s really important.
Continue to network, because that’s how you’ll be exposed to the mentors and sponsors you’ll need to get where you want to go in life.