Active Rain July 10, 2011

Is the Real Estate Profession Sexist?

I remember as a child in the 1970’s hearing my mother lament that she knew that she was making less than her male counterparts. It was a problem, and pay equality continues to be an issue to this day. Things are improving, but I don’t think we’re there yet. 

But is real estate an occupation where pay equality is an issue? According for a recent article in Forbes, real estate ranked as one of the top 10 sexist jobs in the United States, along with truck driving and marketing managers, earning about 70 cents on the male dollar. The piece also put women at about 52% of the agent population, which struck me as peculiar.  In my area, women dominate the agent pool; I’d put them closer to two thirds of licensees. 

Since real estate is virtually only a commission based pursuit, the 70 cents on the dollar statistic can’t refer to a lower salary. Commissions are negotiable; you earn what you sell. In my market, female agents dominate the high dollar producers. There are plenty of males who are high producers (like, for instance, Yours Truly), but we’re outnumbered. And I don’t think that New York is an aberration. I think females make up the lion’s share of the agent population just about everywhere. So what gives? 

I really don’t know the source of Forbes’ data. However, if the average female agent really does earn less than $700 per week and the average male almost $1,000, I have some theories. 

  1. While men may very well be a minority of the agent pool, a higher percentage who are licensed may be full time bread winners. This is where women being in the majority works against them, because the more part timers you have, the more your numbers are pulled down. 
  2. Commission splits for women could be lower for women, which strikes me as incredibly unlikely. The competition for productive agents is fierce, and I have never heard of such a thing as offering a female agent less and expecting to get her license hung in your office. 
  3. A wild card could be that female agents negotiate lower commissions with clients, but, like number 2, I see no evidence of this at all. 
My guess would be that with females in the majority, there are more part timers making less, pulling their average down. But I remain dubious as to the source of Forbes’ data. 
Feel free to chime in.