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Female real estate professionals outnumber their male counterparts by 26 percent, with women making up 63 percent of all REALTORS®, according to the 2018 Member Profile Report from the National Association of REALTORS®. Why, then, is there such a significant gap between men and women leaders in a female-dominated industry? NAR data show more men lead real estate businesses—52 percent as broker/owners and 57 percent as selling managers.

There may be a glass ceiling for women seeking leadership positions in real estate, a statement that 34 percent of working Americans in a female-dominated industry agree with, according to a recently released Coldwell Banker survey, Examining Women and Leadership. The survey, conducted online by the Harris Poll, compared the professional ambitions of 2,000-plus U.S. adults who are working in female-dominated industries versus those led by men.

In female-dominated industries, 14 percent of men already hold an executive-level position, a stark contrast to the only 8 percent of women who hold similar roles, according to the report.

Where is the disconnect?

A Fear-Inducing Environment
There’s an overarching concern that women have to work harder than men to achieve the same leadership positions. In fact, 41 percent of all employed U.S. adults surveyed believe that the path to these coveted executive positions is more difficult for female employees. Nearly half of these surveyed women (48 percent) said that even at their own company, obtaining an executive lead position is more difficult for females—35 percent of surveyed men agree.

This could be major deterrent for women interested in pursuing roles in leadership. In response to an environment where females are expected to work harder, women may be unwilling to be as direct as their male counterparts when asking for raises and promotions.

For example, the report states that in female-dominated industries, 42 percent of women are typically hesitant to request either a raise or promotion even if they are qualified. With men, that statistic drops down to 37 percent. Additionally, there is a 20 percent gap between men and women who have pursued career advancement—59 percent of men have directly asked their supervisor or boss for a raise or promotion, while 49 percent of surveyed women have done the same.

A salary gap also amplifies this unease. The survey found that among all surveyed U.S. adults, 79 percent of men believe they are fairly compensated, a bit inflated from the 70 percent of women who feel the same.

Of those working in a female-dominated industry, 36 percent of women have ambitions to hold a future role at the executive level, compared to 53 percent of men who responded the same way. Are inequalities and enforced perceptions holding women back?

Widening the Path, Eliminating the Gap
The majority of workers (58 percent of men and 72 percent of women) in female-dominated industries say that female leadership within their company is important to them. This sentiment is stronger among employed U.S. adults aged 18-34—70 percent value women in executive-level positions at their workplace.

What could help alleviate these stressors and obstacles? Leadership training, or increasing the awareness of such opportunities, could help fill the current void. According to the report, 58 percent of men working in female-dominated industries state their company offers some type of formal leadership training. Comparatively, only 35 percent of women in those same industries can say the same. Additionally, for 21 percent of respondents across all industries who don’t yet hold an executive or senior position, a lack of leadership training or education at their company would prove an obstacle should they decide to pursue this type of career advancement.

Increasing Awareness of Existing Opportunities
Some employees in female-dominated industries (16 percent of women and 8 percent of men) are not aware of any leadership training or seminars offered by their company. Many brokerages provide leadership training; however, internal programming is not the only solution.

Here are a few leadership initiatives that today’s female REALTORS® can take advantage of:

Women in the Housing and Real Estate Ecosystem – One of the leading voices for advancing gender equality across the entire housing ecosystem, NAWRB provides comprehensive tools and resources for women in the industry, covering an extensive range of topics including poverty and homeownership to C-suite opportunities and family offices. Two of the most prominent initiatives include the Diversity & Inclusion Leadership Council, which is dedicated to increasing the number of women leaders at all levels in the housing sector, and the Women’s Global Resource Center, which looks to increase women’s employment across the board.

The Leadership Institute at REALTOR® University – Created to fill a need for leadership training in several real estate fields, the National Association of REALTORS® offers several resources and programs for those pursuing a role in association or MLS leadership.

Institute of Real Estate Management – Membership to the program, an affiliate of NAR, empowers students, professionals and industry veterans to seek career advancement in the real estate fields.

WomenUP!® by the California Association of REALTORS® — A nationwide campaign and community for women who want to own and lead a real estate brokerage or support the cause. The platform allows female industry members to connect and seek advice and mentorship from experienced women broker/owners and leaders. 

Women’s Council of REALTORS® — A network of experienced REALTORS® who are helping to advance women as professionals and create leaders in the business and the community.

CREW Network – A membership to connect with women in commercial real estate. The network states it is committed to transforming the commercial real estate industry by advancing women globally.

“Women in real estate face an upward mobility challenge, and it’s our responsibility to help correct the gender leadership gap,” says Zoe Horneck, vice president of Product Marketing and Communications at Coldwell Banker, in a statement. 

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at