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This article first appeared in Real Estate magazine’s special-edition Women in Real Estate issue. View the entire issue here.

Women are underrepresented in senior positions across most industries, and while real estate is leading the way, there is still so much more that should be done. According to the Women in Business report, in 2020, only 29 percent of senior management roles were occupied by women. The good news is that within the real estate industry, we’re doing much better. Sixty percent of women hold their own brokerage license, a number that should continue to grow in years to come, thanks to the inspiration of the women leading the way.

So why do women make great leaders?
According to PEW Research, women in leadership positions are seen as being more trustworthy than their male counterparts. Additionally, 43 percent of the population believes that women create a safer and more respectful work environment, and 33 percent believe that women are better at mentoring young employees. Women are also perceived as being better able to work through compromises, and they support issues that are important to them. These are all leadership skills that will bring out the best in any team.

What are “soft skills?”
The term “soft skills” refers to personal attributes such as empathy, versatility, effective communication, adaptability and self-awareness that make people more successful in their careers. According to a 2016 study conducted by global advisory firm Korn Ferry, women outperform men in 11 out of 12 of these soft skills. For example, women are often better communicators, as they more easily interpret verbal and non-verbal communication. Women are also seen as better negotiators because of these soft skills, as they’re generally active listeners and seem more relatable. Finally, women are perceived as being more empathetic and capable of adapting their styles to fit the needs of their team or organization.

Why are “soft skills” necessary?
Leaders who practice these soft skills have been shown to make their companies thrive. In fact, the Harvard Business Review found that company leaders who exemplify these skills saw an average return on assets of more than 9 percent over two years. On the other side of the spectrum, those who did not embody these soft skills saw a return of less than 2 percent. These skills also help maintain a collaborative and productive team and create strong relationships with both coworkers and clients. Since women excel in soft skills, they should make up more of the leadership team.

How will seeing more women in leadership roles make a difference?
Ultimately, it’s critical to have diversity within our leadership teams. People who come from different backgrounds bring different experiences and talents to their workplace. This can create better opportunities to find creative solutions to challenges and drive the success of a team. Additionally, by normalizing women in leadership positions, these roles will become more available to future generations.

Erin Ruane is the senior vice president of sales and marketing at She has also devoted her time and energy as a board member of United Way South Hampton Roads and as co-chair of their Women United group of 800 philanthropically-focused professional women. As a leader at United Way, she motivated other women from to join the team. Not only does Ruane fulfill a leadership position, but she also inspires other women to pursue these roles as well.