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® has steadily increased in recent years from 51 years of age in 2007 to 54 in 2019. 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, followed by sales and retail. 67 percent of all REALTORS® are female. However, among members who are over 60 years old, this percentage falls to 62 percent. Among broker licensees, 61 percent are female, compared with 67 percent of sales agent licensees. Among part-time sales agents, 71 percent are female, while 67 percent of full-time sales agents are female.
Women and the Real Estate Profession
Beyond “Best Efforts”: Why Commercial Real Estate Needs to Catch Up on Diversity (Urban Land Institute, Sep. 9, 2019)
Building the Blueprint for Change: Women in Real Estate (KPMG, May 19, 2019)
Fearless in the Face of Industry Barriers (REALTOR® Magazine, Apr. 18, 2019)
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)
2017 Choosing a Career in Real Estate: A Perspective on Gender, Race, and Ethnicity (National Association of REALTORS®, 2017)"Rosie the REALTOR®" and the Re-gendering of Real Estate Brokerage, 1930-1960 (Enterprise & Society, Jun. 2002) E
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
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
How Women Are Breaking into, and Changing the Face of, Commercial Real Estate (Pioneer Realty Capital, Feb. 4, 2020)
NAIOP Panel Discusses Changing the Game for Women in Commercial Real Estate (The Real Reporter, Nov. 7, 2019)
Accelerating the Advancement of Women in Commercial Real Estate (CREW Network, Sep. 12, 2019)
The Boss? You’re Looking at Her (New York Times, Mar. 1, 2019)
Why Women Should Consider Commercial Real Estate Brokerage as a Career (SVN, Sep. 10, 2018)
New Survey Reveals Equal Pay the Biggest Challenge Facing Women in Commercial Real Estate (RETS Associates, Jun. 27, 2018)
Something to Talk About: How much progress has the CRE industry made when it comes to sexual discrimination and harassment? (National Real Estate Investor, May 2018)
Organizations for Women in Real Estate
Books, eBooks & Other Resources
The following eBooks and digital audiobooks are available to NAR members:
Ask for It (Kindle, eBook)
Confessions of a Resilient Entrepreneur (Kindle, eBook)
The Confidence Myth (Kindle, eBook)
Corporate Tribalism (Kindle, eBook)
Down to Business (Kindle, eBook)
In Good Company (eBook)
Kiplinger's Money Smart Women (Audiobook)
Million Dollar Women (Audiobook)
Rise to the Top (eBook)
Successful Women Think Differently (Kindle, eBook)
Time Management Secrets for Working Women (Kindle, eBook)
Wise Women Invest in Real Estate (eBook, Kindle)
Women & Money (Audiobook)
Women Count (Kindle, eBook)
Books, Videos, Research Reports & More
The resources below are available for loan through the Library & Archives. Up to three books, tapes, CDs and/or DVDs can be borrowed for 30 days from the Library for a nominal fee of $10. Call the Library & Archives at 800-874-6500 for assistance.
Ebby Halliday: The First Lady of Real Estate (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 (Lexington Books, 2002) HD 1375 W55
Workingmoms.calm: How Smart Women Balance Family and Career (Thomson-Southwestern, 2003) HQ 536 K38
Lean in: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead (Knopf, 2013) HD 6054.3 S265
Personal Power: The Guide to Power for Today's Working Woman (Career Track Publications, Inc., 1985) BF 637 L11
Progress of Women in Real Estate: 50th Anniversary (Women's Council of REALTORS®, 1988) HF 294 W84p
The Woman's Guide to Selling Residential Real Estate Successfully: A Step-by-Step Career Program (Everest House, 1981) HF 5438 J25
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