Women in Real Estate: More Than 100 Years of Impact

March 26, 2021

Women are such an integral part of the story of real estate, that it may be hard to imagine that it wasn’t always this way. When the National Association of Realtors (NAR) started in 1908, its members were strictly male. According to NAR, their first female member joined in 1910. But times have changed. 

These days, women in the real estate industry are making their mark. According to NAR’s 2020 Members Profile, 64% of all Realtors in the industry are women. At Keller Williams, they’re also thriving. The company has been named as one of the country’s best employers for women for a third year in a row and half the company’s executive team is made up of women – versus what recent research has found is just 26.5% of executive positions in S&P 500 companies.

This Women’s History Month, we recognize five ways the industry has been transformed, for and by women.

1910: Women Become Part of the Conversation by Joining NAR

When the National Association of Realtors was started in 1908, there were no female members, although 3,000 women were working as brokers across the United States. In 1910, Corrine Simpson joined NAR as its first female member. At the time, advances in technology brought with them a host of new white-collar office jobs, which were seen as a better and less dangerous work environment for women, hence their newfound interest in working as brokers. The notion at the time was also that since women ran their homes, they were well-positioned to sell houses to the public.

1971: The Equal Credit Opportunity Act

The Equal Credit Opportunity Act allowed women to apply for and get a credit card and mortgage without a co-signer. For the first time, women could buy their own homes, which gave a major lift to the real estate industry. The act came about after former Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg co-wrote a brief arguing that a part of Idaho state law violated the Constitution (the part stated that men were preferable over women to be an executor of an estate). The court agreed, paving the way for a 1974 law called the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, which left a lasting impact on the real estate industry and on women’s lives.

1980: Women Become a Force to Reckon With in the Real Estate Industry

In 1980, women were making up an increasingly larger portion of real estate, 45% of the industry, with 300,000 women working as real estate agents. The growth came about in lockstep with the women’s liberation movement that started in the late 1960s and extended into the 1980s. Women sought out equal rights and opportunities and more personal freedoms. More and more women were drawn to real estate during this period because of its flexible scheduling and potential to earn a good living. Women shifting gears in the workforce or those seeking out part-time opportunities found a home in real estate.

1995: Culture Takes Center Stage in the Real Estate Industry

In the 1990s, companies like Keller Williams became well-known in the industry for their empowering culture and strong values system, and recognition of that strong culture continues today. In fact, Stanford recently recognized KW for its unique economic and cultural model. A supportive culture has always been a part of KW founder and executive chairman Gary Keller’s vision, with the inception of KW’s Associate Leadership Council – a dynamic “board of directors” – and profit sharing.

KW’s culture of caring was solidified even more with the creation of KW Cares, a public charity to support KW associates and their families going through hardship. A driving force behind KW Cares is vice chairman of the board of Keller Williams Realty Mo Anderson, who’s shaped KW’s culture and value system with discipline and passion. Anderson is joined by other KW women leaders like vice president of operations for Keller Williams Realty International Ellen Curtis, who’s worked tirelessly to champion KW’s models and systems, empowering the company to become the largest real estate franchise by agent count in the world.

Related reading: International Women’s Day: 4 Women of KW Share Their Journey and Biggest Inspirations

2020: Single Women Are Making Moves in the Market

When it comes to marital status, single women make up 17% of home buyers, the second-largest segment right after married couples. According to NAR, they are also likely to own more homes than single men do, as well as purchase more expensive homes. (Data shows that compared to men, they buy homes that are an average of 6% higher in value.) Economists note steady rises in the labor force and an increase in women-owned businesses as factors to this increase.    

In the last 100-plus years, women have made a major impact on the real estate industry, inspiring future generations. Please comment below and share with us which women in real estate have inspired you.

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