6 Ways to Empower Women in Real Estate

Although women are making major strides in real estate, there is much more work ahead. We feature this still-timely commentary as MHN celebrates Women’s History Month.
Jessica Fiur, Managing Editor
Jessica Fiur, Managing Editor

Happy International Women’s Day!

Let’s all pull on our sparkly Michelle Obama boots and get in formation. Because even though there have been many strides to empower women in real estate, there is always more work to be done. (According to a 2015 report from CREW, only 9 percent of commercial real estate C-suite positions are held by women.) What can we as an industry do? Here are some suggestions.

Have better maternity leave policies. It is stressful having a baby, and not just because you will get no sleep for the foreseeable future, will hurt trying to walk across the room and are now responsible for a tiny human. But you also are haunted with the knowledge that you’re going to have Baby Shark in your head for the next few months! (Here’s the video. Because if I have to have it in my head, so should you. You’re welcome.) Seriously though, women stress about going back to work, especially if it’s to the old boy’s club culture that is still unfortunately around in real estate. They also worry that their colleagues won’t understand or will be resentful for the “time off” (ha!). Allow women to ease back into work, either with a reduced schedule or the ability to work from home when necessary. 

Have a fair dress codeAre your female leasing agents required to wear heels? That’s the worst, especially if you’re standing all day. What about banning specific hairstyles? Does that really affect how people work? Of course it’s fine to have a dress code, especially for a resident- or client-facing position. And no one is saying the dress code has to be the same for males and females. (No one is saying if females have to wear a skirt then males should too. Unless they want to.) Just make it fair. Don’t require the women to wear something uncomfortable if the men don’t have to. 

Consider safety. If you have employees who have to show apartments by themselves, make sure they will be safe. This could include a check-in system, lockers for valuables or even offering self-defense classes. 

Be transparent about salaries. According to a 2018 white paper from CREW, there is a gender pay gap in commercial real estate, the greatest of which is with commercial brokers with a pay differential of 33.8 percent between the sexes. How to fix that? Pay women the same salary as men! But, also, list salary requirements from the beginning of the process. And don’t ask about previous salaries (in some areas you already can’t do that, such as New York City). 

Watch that corporate culture and have a better way to deal with harassment. Don’t allow your company to have #metoo stories. Make sure your corporate culture is one that allows for a pleasant experience for people. And if there are issues with harassment (either on the property level and the corporate level), have systems in place to deal with it. 

Encourage mentorship programs with female executives and younger female employees. In pop culture, such as in The Bachelor, women are often pitted against each other. But, really, we are here to make friends, and we’re all here for the right reasons. And the best way to do that is to let newer employees learn from more experienced ones. That is also how to help grow the female leadership talent pool.

What are some other ideas to empower women in real estate? Post your comments on our Facebook page or send a tweet to @MHNOnline or @jfiur.