NAR Library & Archives has already done the research for you. References (formerly Field Guides) offer links to articles, eBooks, websites, statistics, and more to provide a comprehensive overview of perspectives. EBSCO articles (E) are available only to NAR members and require a password.
Demographic Characteristics of REALTORS®
The median age of REALTORS® is 54, down slightly from 55 last year. The majority of members are women with a college education. REALTORS® frequently have had careers in other fields prior to real estate, the most common being in management, business, and financial professions, tied with sales and retail. 65 percent of all REALTORS® are female, up from 64 percent last year. However, among members who are over 60 years old, this percentage falls slightly to 62 percent. Among broker licensees, 61 percent are female, compared with 67 percent of sales agent licensees. Among part-time sales agents, 70 percent are female, while 65 percent of full-time sales agents are female.
Source: 2021 National Association of REALTORS® Member Profile
Women and the Real Estate Profession
Titans of Industry: Women in Real Estate 2022 Event Recap (Chicago Association of REALTORS®, Mar. 8, 2022)
Read recaps and hear audio recordings from the Chicago Association of REALTORS®’ Women in Real Estate event. Topics covered include closing the gender pay gap, negotiation skills, and identifying your value proposition.
Shattering the Glass Ceiling in Real Estate (Economists’ Outlook, Sep. 28, 2021)
“The real estate industry is dominated by powerhouse women entrepreneurs. Women are likely to enter real estate not only because of their interest in the field and the flexibility the industry provides for setting their own work schedules, but also because of their strong desire to help families and work with people. In the broader U.S. economy, the notion of setting one's own hours and being one's own boss is often not possible outside of real estate.”
Career Choices in Real Estate: Through the Lens of Gender, Race, and Sexual Orientation (National Association of REALTORS®, Mar. 30, 2021)
“In 2017, the National Association of REALTORS® took its first look at member business through the lens of gender and race. The report provided insights into differences in why members entered the field, skills important for the field of real estate, areas in which members worked, the typical number of transactions, sales volume, and the income differences.
The 2021 report expands these topics and scope. In addition to examining experiences by race and gender, NAR members were also asked questions regarding their sexual orientation. A new category was added to compare and contrast experiences among members who identify as Straight/Heterosexual and identify as LGBTQ+.”
Building the Blueprint for Change: Women in Real Estate (KPMG, May 19, 2019)
This whitepaper looks at the importance of women in the real estate industry and provides advice for attracting, retaining, and promoting female talent.
Even in Female-Dominated Industries, More than One-Third of Americans Agree Women Face a “Glass Ceiling,” According to Coldwell Banker Real Estate Survey (Coldwell Banker Blue Matter Blog, Feb. 5, 2019)
“The Coldwell Banker Examining Women and Leadership Survey compares the leadership and professional ambitions of men and women who work in female-dominated industries, as determined by data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The survey found that in female-dominated industries, men are 75 percent more likely than women to hold an executive-level position.”
Women in NAR
When NAR was founded in 1908, the membership was 100% male. The Association’s founders declared NAR’s purpose was “to unite the real estate men of America” – but in reality, the organization wasn’t restricted to just men, nor was it limited to the United States. On the national level there had never been gender or racial requirements for membership. Local boards decided who were qualified and who were not. So it was not any surprise that when the newly formed NAREB took stock of its membership, there were no women. In part, this was due to the fact that there were few professional women in real estate or any other industry. This would change, however in real estate as new boards were created and “qualified” women emerged. Pioneer real estate women usually came from one of three groups: 1) They were widows or daughters of real estate men. 2) They were part of a mother-son or husband-wife team. 3) Or, they were women who began as rental agents or office workers, but, when pressed into service during an emergency, learned to sell.
Women were definitely in the minority in the National Association during its first few decades, but they started joining the organization soon after it was founded. The first woman to join NAR was Seattle broker Corrine Simpson, who became a member in 1910. Mrs. Simpson was quite a formidable fixture in the Seattle real estate scene from 1905 until her death in 1929. She was an active NAR member up through 1927. (Recently the University of Washington archives posted this 1906 advertisement of hers that might be of interest, and this article from HistoryLink.org includes some biographical details).
However, just like today, one of the primary requirements for national membership was acceptance as a member of a local real estate board. Many local boards, particularly older, well-established boards and those in major cities, did explicitly ban women from membership in their bylaws, which effectively prevented them from becoming members of NAR. Newly established boards and those in suburbs and rural areas often didn't have such restrictions, since they needed all the members they could get. So, for example, in the 1920s, Cora Wright, one of the founders of the Women's Council (WCR), was not allowed to be a member of the Chicago Real Estate Board because of her gender. Instead, she joined the smaller neighboring Oak Park Real Estate Board and thus became a member of NAR. Most of the local boards had dropped the gender restriction by the early 1950s.
In the 1920s, a number of local real estate boards established special women’s divisions catering to female brokers — one of the earliest was the Portland (OR) Real Estate Board's "Realtyettes”. The California Association of REALTORS® also had their own very successful women’s division, which eventually became the model for WCR. Structures like CAR’s helped attract more women to the real estate industry, and women joined the National Association in increasing numbers. However, since women primarily were found in the ranks of sales agents, not brokers as much, and since NAR’s membership base was restricted to brokers, women remained in the minority for decades. NAR’s first member profile survey was conducted in 1949, which found that 98% of members were men.
In 1973, the situation rapidly began to change when NAR opened up membership to sales agents (REALTOR-Associates), many of whom were women. At the end of 1973, NAR had 118,000 members, with women making up roughly 17%. By the end of 1975, NAR had ballooned to 435,500 members, and women accounted for nearly a third of total membership. Women surpassed men as a percentage of total membership three years later, in 1978. In 1996, four years after Dorcas Helfant became NAR’s first female president, women represented the majority of broker licensees for the first time.
Source: Progress of Women in Real Estate, 50th Anniversary (Chicago, IL: Women’s Council of REALTORS®, 1998)
National Association of REALTORS® Women Presidents
2022 – Leslie Rouda Smith (Plano, TX)
2018 - Elizabeth Mendenhall (Columbia, MO)
2010 - Vicki Cox Golder (Tucson, AZ)
2007 - Pat Vredevoogd Combs (Grand Rapids, MI)
2003 - Catherine B. Whatley (Jacksonville, FL)
1999 - Sharon A. Millett (Auburn, ME)
1992 - Dorcas T. Helfant-Browning (Virginia Beach, VA)
Women in Commercial Real Estate
Women Are Underrepresented in CRE — Here’s How We Change It (REjournals, Sep. 1, 2021)
Women represent only 36.7 percent of the workforce in commercial real estate. This gender gap may be attributed to long-standing relationships in the industry, lack of leadership opportunities, and a resistance to change. Recruit more women to commercial real estate by casting a wider net for talent, diversifying leadership, and reimagining the culture.
Learning about Networking from Women in the Commercial Real Estate Industry (Journal of Real Estate Practice and Education, Feb. 22, 2021)
“Drawing on concepts of network centrality, closeness, and status, this article examines the networking practices of women in the commercial real estate industry. The data were obtained through semi-structured interviews with women serving as local chapter presidents of a prominent trade organization in the United States and Canada. Consistent with social role theory, the results suggest women focus extensively on relationship building during their networking activities and attempt to establish credibility by demonstrating professional competency. The results also indicate that women take a number of common steps to position themselves at the center of networks composed of influential individuals with whom they have close personal ties.”
A Catalyst for Change: COVID-19's Impact on Women in Commercial Real Estate (CREW Network, 2021)
“Physical workplaces and the way we conduct business were temporarily—and, in some cases, permanently—altered. In commercial real estate, the COVID-19 pandemic presented new challenges for women and stalled their progress in the industry. Yet it also presented new opportunities to change the industry culture and remove persistent workplace barriers.”
Female Representation in Commercial Real Estate: A Global Tour (MIPIM World Blog, Dec. 6, 2019)
“Commercial Real Estate, CRE, is a historically male-dominated industry, which has been slower than other industries to improve on gender parity. In the United States, men make up 65% of the CRE workforce, and this discrepancy parallels other nations. Increasing the participation by women in CRE will add productivity. In Singapore, achieving balance could actually add as much as $26 billion to the Singaporean economy. In some locations, women are leading the industry.”
2020 CREW Network Benchmark Study: Gender and Diversity in Commercial Real Estate (CREW Network, Sep. 2020)
“CREW Network’s fourth benchmark study was conducted in 2020 to measure progress for women over the last 15 years, capture critical industry-wide data, and benchmark diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in commercial real estate (CRE).”
Organizations for Women in Real Estate
Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW Network)
“CREW (Commercial Real Estate Women) Network was founded in 1989 to bring together women involved in the many aspects of commercial real estate to exchange information, develop business contacts and help each other succeed professionally. Today, CREW Network is the premier business network dedicated to transforming the commercial real estate industry by advancing women globally.”
National Association of Women in Real Estate Businesses (NAWRB)
“NAWRB is a leading voice for women in the housing ecosystem. With the assistance of our Women’s Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Council (NDILC), NAWRB is advocating for women’s gender equality, raising the utilization of women-owned businesses and providing women the tools and opportunities for economic expansion and growth.”
Women's Council of REALTORS® (WCR)
“The Women's Council of REALTORS® is recognized as the voice for women in real estate, and the premier source for the development of leaders in the industry, organized real estate and beyond.”
Women in Real Estate (WIRE)
“WIRE is an organization dedicated to providing a networking venue for women in the private equity real estate business. Our experience is that it can be difficult to make time to forge beneficial connections with the women we regularly interact with in our professional lives. WIRE was created to facilitate this essential building of strong networks among female professionals.”
Books, eBooks & Other Resources
The following eBooks and digital audiobooks are available to NAR members:
Ask for It (eBook)
The Confidence Myth (eBook)
Corporate Tribalism (eBook)
Down to Business (eBook)
In Good Company (eBook)
Million Dollar Women (Audiobook)
Rise to the Top (eBook)
Successful Women Think Differently (eBook)
Time Management Secrets for Working Women (eBook)
Women and Equality in the Workplace (eBook)
Women & Money (Audiobook)
Women Count (eBook)
Books, Videos, Research Reports & More
As a member benefit, the following resources and more are available for loan through the NAR Library. Items will be mailed directly to you or made available for pickup at the REALTOR® Building in Chicago.
Ebby Halliday: The First Lady of Real Estate (Dallas, TX: Brown Books Publishing Group, 2009) HD 1382.5 H15
Framing a Domain for Work and Family: A Study of Women in Residential Real Estate Sales Work (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2002) HD 1375 W55
Workingmoms.calm: How Smart Women Balance Family and Career (Mason, OH: Thomson-Southwestern, 2003) HQ 536 K38
Lean in: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead (New York, NY: Knopf, 2013) HD 6054.3 S265
Progress of Women in Real Estate: 50th Anniversary (Chicago, IL: Women's Council of REALTORS®, 1988) HF 294 W84p
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