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Most residential brokers may be women, but inequality is still prevalent in the real estate industry

Sarah Paynter
Reporter
Real estate agent in front of home

The most visible, public-facing representative of the real estate industry is the broker — and most of them are, in fact, women. 

Almost seven in every 10 Realtors are female, a 20% increase from two decades ago, according to an analysis by the National Association of Realtors. 

“For women, it is very attractive to enter the field because you can set your own hours and be an entrepreneur,” said Jessica Lautz, vice president of demographics and behavioral Insights at the National Association of Realtors (NAR). 

But there is a significant pay gap for female Realtors. In the United States, the average male Realtor makes $97,188 a year, while the average female Realtor makes only $60,869, according to a report by Data USA, a data platform created by UK-based accounting firm Deloitte, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Massachusetts-based data company Datawheel. 

The gap can, in part, be explained by fewer women in high-level positions. Though 70% of sales agents are female, women receive 61% of broker licenses (a more advanced level of certification that permits holders to own a real estate firm) and only 41% brokers who have over 20 years of experience are women, according to NAR.

“More females start as an agent and transition upwards,” said Lautz. “Because females traditionally start as sales agents, earnings are typically less for women in the field.” 

Women are also slightly more likely to only work part-time, NAR found. Part-time Realtors are slightly more likely to be women (67%) than full-time Realtors (71%).

Still, women outnumber men in almost all facets of residential real estate sales — and women in leadership positions are increasing. In New York City, women lead a number of top residential real estate brokerage firms, including Diane Ramirez, CEO of Halstead Real Estate, Pamela Liebman, CEO of Corcoran, and Dottie Herman, CEO of Douglas Elliman. 

Not the case in commercial real estate

In commercial real estate (office, warehouse, retail or multifamily sales), though, only 30% of Realtors are women. And the pay gap in commercial real estate is even wider, men make a median $169,200 a year while women make only $103,900 a year, according to the most recent commercial NAR report, released in 2018.

In part, that could be because the share of female commercial Realtors have fewer years of experience. Of commercial Realtors with over 26 years of experience, only 19% were women, NAR found. 

Additionally, men are more likely to be brokers in commercial real estate, while women are more likely to be sales agents — brokers can own a real estate firm, while sales agents must work under a broker. Seventy percent of all commercial Realtors are male compared to 30% who are female, according to NAR. A majority of the women commercial brokers are sales agents, 38%, compared to 26% who are brokers. While 74% of the men are brokers, compared to 62% who are sales agents.

“The sad reality is that in many firms, females are still in the minority. I’d like to see more female brokers regularly hired by national companies, large REITS and pension funds for their commercial real estate brokerage needs,” said Andrea Davis, owner of Arizona Commercial Real Estate brokerage in Scottsdale, Ariz. 

Women are selling properties to and for men

Realtors are mostly women, but they represent moneyed real estate developers and investors — professions where women are scarcely represented. 

In addition to her job as a residential Realtor, Compass broker Vickey Barron serves as a property marketability advisor to New York City developers. In that role, she walks the line of female-dominated residential sales and male-dominated purse-strings behind it. And that sometimes make her the only woman in the room. 

“You’ll find women in the sales process, but most developers are men, most investors are men, and real estate is heavily driven by money and power coming from the men,” said Barron, who has sold over $2.5 billion worth of properties, including the record-breaking $51 million sale of the penthouse at Walker Tower in 2014.

Statistics on female representation in real estate development are not readily available, but current anecdotal estimates range from less than 5% to over 30%. In 2011, one study by Harvard Business School found that only 4% of senior investors at major real estate firms were women. Another study sponsored by Capital One in 2015 placed 32% of women in real estate development jobs. Updated numbers of the bi-decade survey will be released in September 2020. 

Among notable female real estate developers is MaryAnne Gilmartin, chief executive officer of New York City-based developer L&L MAG, which owns prominent buildings like The New York Times building and the Barclays Center. Joining her, Andrea Olshan is chief executive officer of Olshan Properties, a New York City-based developer that currently owns 23 million square feet of commercial and residential properties across 11 states. Additionally, developer Abby Hamlin is founder and president of New York City developer Hamlin Ventures

But Barron is seeing change — and is helping to encourage it. Barron has brought a number of female mentees, including her two daughters, onto her team and into rooms filled with male developers. 

“Fortunately for women today, there are more female mentors willing to groom the next generation of female power brokers,” said Davis.

Sarah Paynter is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @sarahapaynter

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