The billion-dollar box-office smash “Barbie” has shined a spotlight on the influence and economic power of women. In the real estate realm, though, female empowerment long predates the 1959 release of the first Barbie doll by Mattel, Inc.
The Female Majority
Consistently since the National Association of REALTORS® began collecting data on home buyers in 1981, women have been second only to married couples as a share of the market. In 2022, single men comprised about 10% of the market. Single women: 17%. That’s according to NAR’s 2022 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. Nationwide, 10.76 million homes are owned and occupied by single women, as opposed to 8.12 million homes for single men, says Bankrate.
The business of real estate, too, has been fertile ground for women.
The 2023 NAR Member Profile shows that 62% of all NAR members are female, and that’s far from a recent phenomenon. Since 1978, women have surpassed men as a percentage of NAR’s total membership. (Dave Liniger has said that when he and his wife Gail were building RE/MAX in the early 1970s, their ability to recruit women agents was a big part of their business strategy and success.) It took a little longer for women to achieve those numbers in the broker ranks; 1996 was the first year female brokers outnumbered their male counterparts as a percentage of NAR membership. Today, 61% of brokers who are NAR members are female.
A Century of Empowerment
In director Greta Gerwig’s telling, “Barbie” world is a place where Barbies have each other’s backs. Likewise, women helping women has long been a model for empowerment in real estate.
The membership of NAR was 100% male when the organization was founded in 1908 “to unite the real estate men of America.” But at least since the 1920s, female real estate agents and brokers have supported each other in official ways. During that decade, several local real estate boards created women’s divisions for female members. The California Association of REALTORS® Women’s Division became the model for the national Women’s Council of REALTORS®, founded in 1938. Today, California continues to lead on women’s empowerment issues; in 2017, it launched WomanUp! to support women’s journeys.
“When women support and uplift each other, it fosters a sense of empowerment,” says Kerri Hartnett, WCR’s 2023 national president-elect.
Since 2019, WCR has awarded Supporting Women in Real Estate grants to help state and local REALTOR® associations with programming designed to support women in their business and leadership roles. In 2023, three state associations and seven local associations received grants.
“Sharing experiences, knowledge, and resources helps women to gain confidence, motivation, and belief in their abilities,” Hartnett says. “This encourages women to overcome self-doubt, break through societal barriers, and pursue their goals with determination.”
You go, girls!