What does empowerment mean to you?
What it means to empower women in real estate and why it’s so critical for the advancement of our industry
There’s a movement underway to better support and elevate women in the workplace, and the real estate industry is no exception. We’re seeing companies place an increasing focus on the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusivity as the right thing to do for people and for business. A piece of this is gender equality – a topic near and dear to my heart.
Often, when we talk about women in the workplace, we’re referring to women being disproportionally underrepresented. This is the case in many industries, particularly in STEM, where we’re beginning to see increasing numbers of women and girls enter the industry. But the path to advancement still holds many challenges for women, and even more so for women of color. We often base conversations of gender equality around women being the minority. In contrast, women are the majority in the real estate industry – according to NAR, 65% of REALTORS® are female. While women make up the majority of agents, however, there are far fewer women in leadership positions at brokerages. So, while the industry is primarily female, women are far less represented at the top. What does this mean for our industry? Well, the impact of diversity on business is well documented (example: Why Diversity Matters by Mckinsey & Company), confirming that teams with more diverse voices represented make better decisions and drive stronger results. Empowering women in real estate is a critical component of driving innovation and growth in the industry.
This industry is also unique in that most agents, while supported by a brokerage, run their own business. This holds its own opportunity for advancement and professional growth for women, and really, all agents. So, how do we continue to chip away at paving an equitable path for women at all levels?
Empowerment is often volunteered as a solution to gender parity. In my opinion, while it isn’t the whole picture (there are so many more factors that contribute to equality), it certainly is a piece of the puzzle, and empowerment can be impactful. With all the buzz around empowerment, I want to dive into what it really means.
What is empowerment, really?
Quite literally, empowerment means “the giving or delegation of power or authority; authorization” and “the giving of an ability; enablement or permission.”
The reason finding power, enablement, or permission is so critical for women, in particular, is because we’re often socialized or put into environments where these do not come easily, or they’re suppressed. Empowerment, in any form, can be transformational for women in taking that next step toward their goals.
Different people find different things empowering
Not all women have the same goals. Not all people have the same goals. Empowerment isn’t just about getting more women into leadership; it’s about enabling equal opportunity for growth toward whatever someone’s goals are. Being empowered looks different for everyone and there is no one recipe for empowerment.
Being truly empowered might look like:
- Growing a successful book of business so you have financial independence or financial freedom
- Having flexibility that awards you time and energy to pursue passions and make an impact outside of real estate
- Overcoming self-doubt and applying for that next-level position at your brokerage
- Having role models that show you possibilities for your future that you never would have imagined for yourself otherwise
- Joining communities of real estate professionals who you can relate to for meaningful dialogues that uplift and up-skill you all
- Having a mentor that encourages and challenges you
- Finding the bravery to do something new in an attempt to drive your business forward
Where do we find empowerment?
Often, empowerment comes from within. It starts with self-reflection and truly understanding what hurdles you face then identifying ways to break them down. As you read the list of examples above, were there certain themes that resonated with you? Maybe it’s overcoming self-doubt or finding safe spaces to challenge yourself, or leaning on the guidance and inspiration of others. Do some self-reflection to find where you would benefit from a boost of empowerment.
Empowerment can also come from the community – whether that’s a role model, team, or association. One of the beautiful things about this industry is that it’s people-first and there are communities doing powerful work to uplift real estate professionals and enable you to be your best. For example, WomanUP!, an initiative by the California Association of Realtors led by Sara Sutachan, Debra Trappen, and Leslie Appleton-Young aims at supporting women in their career journey, getting more women into leadership, and encouraging women to start their own teams and brokerages. Or, What Moves Her, an initiative at Realogy launched by Sue Yannaccone, aimed at providing resources for female professionals in real estate to develop their leadership skills and reach professional development goals. Seek out communities that empower and enable you to reach your goals.
Empowering those around you
I’m often asked, particularly by men, “what can I do to better support the women around me?” No matter your gender, you can contribute to greater equality in our industry.
Here are a few questions to start with:
- Are the women around me comfortable using me as a resource? (For training, support, mentorship, teamwork, or other)
- Do I actively keep an eye out for opportunities to support those around me, even those I might not work directly with every day?
- Am I giving the same opportunities to the men and women in my team/office/brokerage/network?
- Am I contributing to a work culture where a diverse range of people can be successful?
- Do I actively participate in the communities I join?
By proactively empowering those around you, you’ll find yourself empowered as well and we’ll begin to break down those barriers between each of us and the power, autonomy, enablement, and permission that we look for.
Gender parity is rooted in equal opportunity. Empowering yourself and those around you is one step in the right direction to ensure we aren’t letting opportunities pass us by. Empowerment may look different for each of us, but when we make an effort to uplift ourselves and those around us, we’re all better off.