Women who have influenced real estate

Key takeaways

  • Women have been part of the real estate industry since the late 1700s but didn't become brokers and agents until the late 1880s.
  • Many women have been trailblazers in the real estate industry, starting their own brokerages and leading associations.
  • Today, 66% of real estate agents are female.

The 1960s ad slogan "You've come a long way, baby" rings true in the real estate world. During the first century of real estate transactions in the U.S., beginning in the late 1770s, women were primarily administrative aides to the men who ran the industry. Women started to become brokers and agents in the late 1800s, and today more than two out of three (66%) of real estate agents are female.

When the National Association of REALTORS® was founded in 1908, no women were allowed to join, even though there were female agents and brokers at the time. It wasn’t until decades later — in the 1950s — that women were allowed to join a local or state real estate board (now called an association). The Women’s Council of REALTORS® was started in 1938 so that female agents could have their own association.

Yet women persisted and progressed to become influential in the real estate industry. The first woman to join NAR was Seattle real estate broker Corinne Simpson, who joined in 1910. However, local boards were slower to allow women to join, and local membership is typically a requirement to join NAR. To date, there have now been seven female presidents of NAR.

Four women who influenced real estate

Besides Simpson, the many trailblazers for women in real estate also include:

  • Catherine Krouse Bauer Worster, a public housing advocate, educator and advisor to five presidents, wrote the Housing Act of 1937, which created the first subsidized housing for low-income citizens.
  • Ebby Halliday, the first woman to start her own real estate brokerage in the late 1930s, dominated the Dallas market for decades. When she died in 2015, her brokerage was Texas's largest privately owned brokerage.
  • Dorcas Helfant, the first female president of NAR in 1992, was also the first female president of the Virginia Association of REALTORS®.
  • Barbara Corcoran, one of the best-known women in real estate, is a former New Jersey diner waitress who built her real estate brokerage into a $5 billion empire before she sold it. Corcoran, a business investor on Shark Tank, is now worth an estimated $100 million.

Gender gap persists

While these women and the many others who now run some of the top brokerages in the country, such as Anywhere (formerly Realogy), Howard Hanna, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, The Corcoran Group, Brown Harris Stevens, The Keyes Company and Windermere, are influential in the real estate industry, more progress needs to be made. According to an Urban Land Institute Study in 2015, only 14% of real estate CEOs were women, contributing to the industry's persistent wage gap. While men in real estate make an average of $102,144, women earn an average of $62,904, according to DataUSA.

One reason for that gap could be the lingering lack of women in commercial real estate. According to a 2020 Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) survey, just 36% of commercial agents are women, and females fill only 9% of executive roles in commercial real estate.

Still, progress has been made for women. For example, until 1974, women couldn't finance a house with a mortgage without a male cosigner, yet every year since 1981, single women have purchased more homes than single men.

Women are financial powerhouses these days. Among couples, 40% of women out-earn their male partners, and women control more than half of all personal wealth in the U.S.

Keep in mind when you’re helping clients obtain a Cinch home warranty that women influence 91% of all homebuying decisions. Your marketing and conversations about the value of protecting a home with a home warranty can be directed at the females in the transaction since they’re more likely to drive the decisions in a couple.

Learn more about the protection offered by a home warranty at cinchrealestate.com.

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