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While a greater number of women in real estate are achieving positions on boards at a national level, women still trail behind men in obtaining leadership positions in some states, including California. While some studies suggest that gender discrimination is to blame for this disparity, others claim that women are choosing to opt out of leadership positions to start their own brokerages.

2020 Women on Boards, a campaign that endeavors to increase the percentage of women on U.S. company boards to 20 percent by 2020, released its annual Gender Diversity Index (GDI), which provides updates on the representation of women on the boards of the nation’s most profitable companies, tracking those featured in the Fortune 1000 list. Between 2016 and 2017, the latest GDI reveals that real estate entities had the greatest percentage of women on boards in 2017 at 3.1 percent—higher than financial services, industrials, energy and technology.

In California, however, the numbers for women real estate brokers in leadership positions are bleak. According to the California Association of REALTORS® (C.A.R.) Membership Survey conducted in 2017, including nearly 1,600 REALTORS®, women comprise only a third of leadership positions in brokerage firms with more than 100 agents, even though they make up 57 percent of REALTORS® in the state. In addition, the survey reveals that women have led 29 percent of the top 500 firms across the country for the past five years.

While an evident gender gap in leadership in broker/owner positions and teams shows that women are missing out on these opportunities, C.A.R.’s report suggests that this discrepancy might be due to women opting out of the corporate ladder to start their own brokerages. C.A.R.’s interviews with 25 case studies reveal that some women are choosing to create their own businesses for the following reasons:

  • Desire to create a company that reflects their unique vision and values
  • Existing brokerage models fail to meet their needs or provide them with sufficient freedom
  • Ability to accommodate their multiple roles as wife, mother, leader, etc.
  • Childcare needs

One of the obstacles women in real estate face is achieving a work/life balance so they can succeed in a career they love while maintaining their relationships and meeting obligations in their personal lives. Women professionals also desire the freedom that comes with being their own boss and creating a company that reflects their values and individuality. It would be optimal if both the corporate sector and entrepreneurship could help women meet their needs, but the latter option currently seems to do a better job of it.

Patno_Desiree_2018_60x60Desirée Patno is the CEO and president of Women in the Housing and Real Estate Ecosystem (NAWRB) and Desirée Patno Enterprises, Inc. (DPE), as well as chairwoman of NAWRB’s Diversity & Inclusion Leadership Council (NDILC). With 30 years of experience in housing, Patno is a champion for women’s economic growth and independence. In 2017, named her the Highest-Ranking Woman and 4th Overall Top Real Estate Influencer to Follow. For more information, please visit

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