There is a trend that has been making its rounds on TikTok and Instagram, and I can’t help but draw the parallel between the intense discussion around commissions earned and the compromises women, and specifically women in marginalized communities, have been making since the beginning of time when it comes to “fair” or equitable compensation.
The Girl Math trend has seen both cute and borderline disturbing videos about how women justify purchases at Target, explain bad budgeting, and manage the extra expenses of beauty maintenance, like Botox in the video below.
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The math has always been there, in the background, pushed down past “We don’t talk about money because it’s not polite.” This trend just highlights that women are stretching what money they don’t have (and not feeling bad about it) and lightly jabs at how women are “bad at money math.”
But maybe the cards have always been stacked against us, and it’s not that we’re bad at managing money, but rather, we have lower incomes and higher costs.
After the year we have all had, I figured I would share some “Girl Math” that has been on my heart, so we can educate ourselves and use this shift as an opportunity to ensure women make it a priority to just ask for the minimum to get by but also to advocate for themselves to get the equity in their financial lives that they deserve.
Below, we’ll look at why Girl Math matters, discuss some industry stats and suss out what the actual math should be for women, rather than laughing off numbers that don’t add up.
General Girl Math 2023
First, let’s lean into the fact that women, when we work as a group and not against each other, have the power to make a massive difference. Just in the world of entertainment, 2023 was a huge year for women.
The powerhouse Barbie movie tackled issues that many women deal with on the daily, becoming one of the highest-grossing films of all time (and with a female director for that matter).
“Barbie has taken the box office by storm, earning more than $1.38 billion worldwide to become the highest-grossing film in Warner Bros.’ 100-year history, the highest-grossing film ever from a female filmmaker at the domestic box office, and is the largest worldwide film release of 2023,” according to PR Newswire.
Tay and Bey (Taylor Swift and Beyonce, for the uninitiated) killed it this year with their tours making a huge impact on the economy — so much so that some financial experts say that their combined economic impact potentially staved off a significant recession.
Whether you agree with the quality of the entertainment or not, there is one important lesson that women need to learn from this math.
These powerful, self-made women show us that you can be the main character, you can get paid, you have an audience of women who are going out of their way to support women, and you can get control of your finances. You cannot go wrong with supporting women-owned small businesses. Ladies, let’s lean in and keep this trend strong.
Real estate Girl Math
So let’s drill down and get specific to our industry. I’ll start with some general stats that you are probably familiar with, and then share a few that might surprise you. This information can be found on NAR’s Women in Real Estate Resource Page and the 2020 CREW Network Benchmark Study: Gender and Diversity in Commercial Real Estate.
- When NAR was founded in 1908, the membership was 100 percent men. The Association’s founders declared NAR’s purpose was “to unite the real estate men of America.”
- 66 percent of all Realtors are women, up from 65 percent last year.
- 61 percent of licensed brokers are women, compared with 68 percent of sales agent licensees.
- Among part-time sales agents, 70 percent are women.
- 67 percent of full-time sales agents are women.
- In commercial real estate, women comprise only 36.7 percent of the workforce.
- Women continue to earn less than men in commercial real estate. In 2020, the fixed salary gap between genders is 10.2 percent and the commission and bonus gap is a staggering 55.9 percent.
- Most Realtors are women, but women are less represented in executive roles.
- Only seven women have been elected as NAR presidents since 1996. (Remember this year?)
- Women are less likely to reach top positions at their companies than men. Women still hold just 9 percent of C-suite positions in commercial real estate.
These numbers show us that the majority has to get involved in all aspects of leadership and executive positions if we want to see real and meaningful change in our industry.
Personal finance Girl Math
In the past year, I have shifted into a full-time career in the retirement living housing/ health care industry.
My job is to help my clients find their final “forever home” and help them prepare for the last move they will ever make. I’m working with two generations, the silent generation and boomers. Let me tell you, the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that women have to get their act together in their relationship with personal finances.
Statistically speaking, we are here for a longer ride, and the longer you live, the more expenses you have to cover.
Here are just some general stats to know about women’s personal finances in 2023.
The Pew Research Center conducted a study in 2022 surrounding women’s wages, and the results show that not much has changed despite decades of efforts asking for change.
- In 2022, women earned an average of 82 percent of what men earned, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of median hourly earnings of both full- and part-time workers.
- These results are similar to the pay gap in 2002 when women earned 80 percent as much as men, according to Pew.
Working Woman Math: In 20 years, we’ve only essentially earned 2 percent more.
- Finance experts say women can pay up to $1,300 more than men yearly for common items due to the so-called “pink tax.” Throughout a 78-year lifespan, that averages to $101,400.
- In addition to the female version of comparable products like deodorant costing more, studies show that women spend $15.4 billion more than men in out-of-pocket healthcare costs yearly, based on deductibles, coinsurance and out-of-pocket maximums. The discrepancy held for women in every age group from 19 to 64 and has been dubbed the Pink Tax.
- The No. 1 reason women left or changed jobs was a lack of accessible and affordable child care. According to a 2022 report, a total of 46 percent of mothers who remain unemployed left the workforce in 2021 due to childcare issues.
- 70 percent of part-time real estate agents are women.
- Women lose approximately $625 billion in wages as they provide unpaid caregiving services to their loved ones, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families.
Working Woman Math: We earn 2 percent less but spend up to $1,300 more on the products, goods, healthcare and care services we need.
According to the Education Data Initiative:
- Women hold $929 billion in student loan debt. That amounts to 66 percent of all student loan debt.
- Women take an additional 2 years on average to pay off student loans.
- Women of color have almost twice the amount of student debt compared to white women.
- The average Black woman’s student loan debt grows 13 percent in their first 12 years of repayment. However, white men see their student loan debts drop by 44 percent.
Working Woman Math: We were told we need the degree to get a better-paying job, but it takes us longer to pay off the debt because we earn less.
This is the big one. Statistically speaking, we know that we live longer. But since Girl Math leaves us with fewer tools in our toolbox, women’s retirement plans are on shaky ground at best.
This is even more important to consider as real estate agents often do not have traditional means of preparing for retirement because they are primarily independent contractors.
- Women live an average of 5 to 7 years longer than men, according to Harvard Medical School.
- The average 401(k) account balance for men ($89,000) is 50 percent greater than that of women ($59,000), according to Bank of America’s just released 2023 Financial Life Benefits Impact Report.
- About 50 percent of women aged 55 to 66 have no personal retirement savings, according to U.S. Census data.
- The average retirement income for a single person over age 65 is roughly $42,000 per year. That income may come from Social Security, pensions and other sources. The median income is just over $27,000 per year.
- Statistically speaking as a woman you have a very high probability of becoming an unpaid caregiver either during retirement or to help your loved ones in their retirement, again, to the tune of $625 billion, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families.
Working Woman Math: To plan for retirement, we need better pay because we have more expenses, live longer and will likely be taking care of family members.
The math isn’t mathing
Everyone needs to care about Girl Math — but especially women. This open discussion about commissions and wages earned is long overdue for agents and consumers.
We must get comfortable talking about money and advocating for better financial education. We have to kick the doors down on this and embrace transparency.
What is Girl Math? It’s recognizing that the way we have always done things may not be the best way of doing things for everyone.
Rachael Hite is a former agent, a business development specialist, fair housing advocate, copy editor, and is currently perfecting her long game selling homes in a retirement community in Northern Virginia. You can connect with her about life, marketing, and business on Instagram.