Real Estate Coach

Women Brokers Reinvent The Rules Of Leadership

CAR Launches Initiative To Increase Women Leadership In Real Estate

Bernice Ross

Bernice Ross

Much has been made about the fact that the top leadership positions in real estate are held primarily by men. Could it be that women are deciding to create their businesses in a way that suits them rather than trying to fight it out in the boardroom for a limited number of seats at the table?

Under the leadership of Chief Economist Leslie Appleton-Young and Vice President of Industry Relations & Strategic Initiatives Sara Sutachan, the California Association of Realtors (CAR) is tackling one of the thorniest issues that the real estate industry faces – the lack of women in senior leadership positions.

According to CAR data, 57 percent of Realtors in California are women, but only about one-third of leadership positions in brokerage firms with over 100 agents are held by women – a statistic that has been virtually unchanged in recent years.

The CAR Women’s Initiative

CAR’s 2017 Membership Development Diversity Initiative is a new women’s outreach program that seeks to increase awareness about women’s leadership in the brokerage industry. It also seeks to create a community where mentors and leaders can communicate, collaborate, promote, advocate for and support one another.

Goals of the Women’s Initiative include:

Creating a roster of California women brokers and owners who are willing to mentor other women leaders, especially those who are broker/owners, team leaders or managers.

Fostering and strengthening relationships within the brokerage and the broader real estate industry.

Building an online community for current and aspiring women leaders and mentors where they can collaborate.

Exploring current online groups and communities to seek out advice and support for this initiative in the real estate brokerage community.

Collaborating with mentors to promote awareness, accountability and transparency about diversity in the brokerage community.

Nearly 1,600 California Realtors responded to the 2017 Membership Survey, of which 57 percent were women and 43 percent were men. Key findings were:

Men continue to be more likely to be broker/owners than women.

A majority of women are opting to form their own brokerages rather than pursuing a corporate leadership career.

Women are more likely to seek the help of a coach or mentor. Because women broker/owners already seek this type of support, this should bode well for substantial participation in the mentoring and leadership community CAR seeks to create.

Bellwether Trends

Research from the California Bureau of Real Estate (BRE) and NAR revealed some unexpected findings. Since 2010, the number of broker’s licenses issued by the California Bureau of Real Estate (BRE) has declined by 10.5 percent and sales licenses have declined by 16.5 percent.

NAR reports that the number of Realtors over the age of 60 has dropped by 26.8 percent in only one year. These findings certainly suggest that Boomers are exiting the business, perhaps in very significant numbers.

Additional explanations for what may be causing these declines include:

The rise of teams, which has placed more pressure on the brokerage model while simultaneously making it more difficult for individual agents to compete.

The inventory drought – when there are too many agents and too few transactions to go around, both agents and brokers are forced out of the business.

Increased technology costs, competition from new business models and the commission squeeze are also factors that may be in play.

In addition to the survey results, CAR also conducted 25 one-on-one interviews with a cross-section of female brokers. Key findings include:

All but one of the women who founded her own company did so because the major brands failed to meet her needs both professionally and personally.

Although women reported gender, racial and age discrimination, there was universal agreement that you push through these issues rather than use them as excuses.

Women adjust their communication and management styles to fit the recipient.

The women recommended establishing core values and then hiring, firing and coaching to those values.

Mentors, coaches and their “Realtor family” have helped women leaders face business and personal adversity. Most have a strong desire to mentor and support other women leaders.

Partnerships among family members are much more likely to survive long-term than partnerships between people who are not related.

Being a leader allows women to shape the future of the industry, politics at all levels, as well as making significant contributions to their local communities both in their service and their charitable giving.

Areas where women were willing to mentor each other included: brokerage management; best practices for entrepreneurship and growth; managing operations, marketing and branding; partnerships; team building; property management; commercial real estate; and becoming involved in local, state and national leadership.

Leslie Appleton-Young, Sara Sutachan and I would like to see this effort go national. We invite you to join us as we move forward to create a community where female leaders can mentor and support each other.

Bernice Ross, CEO of, is a national speaker, trainer and author. She may be reached at

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Women Brokers Reinvent The Rules Of Leadership

by Bernice Ross time to read: 3 min