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International Women’s History Month Special: Women & POC in Real Estate

International Women’s History Month Special: Women & POC in Real Estate

Adapted from our recent Instagram post on @colemangroupre, “Celebrating Women in Real Estate” 

Guest Author: Abby Sullivan, Barnard College class of 2025

There are few industries remaining today that have not seen a drastic change in the role that women play, and real estate is certainly not immune to these changes. Historically, women have been part of the real estate industry since its beginning in the late 1700s and its establishment as a legitimate business in the mid-1800s. Then, they mostly performed administrative and clerical duties. By the late-1800s, women slowly started to move into the roles of brokers and agents. Today, women dominate the residential real estate market, and looking at 2020 sales volume in Massachusetts serves as a prime example, with 7 of the top 10 agents and teams being women agents or women-led teams. And yet, despite women’s clear dominance of the sales leaderboard, men still hold the top leadership positions. According to a 2012 Fortune survey, only 19 percent of board directors and only 12 percent of executives were women in the real estate industry. 

CEO and chief economist at Zillow stated in his book Zillow Talk: The New Rules of Real Estate, “The difference between the genders is incredibly small, but it is statistically significant. When we control for all attributes of a home, women sell for higher prices and sell faster. In our minds, that makes them the victors in this battle of the sexes.” Although women make up around 63 % of all realtors today, as of 2019 they make 73 cents to the dollar that men earn

To make matters worse, the real estate industry has shown time and time again to have a problem with diversity. Women and people of color (POC) are still a minority in the community and women of color are even less represented. Worse so, the industry appears to recognize the problem but is only making progress in increments.

“As an African American commercial real estate brokerage executive, I am profoundly exhausted about discussing the lack of diversity in the commercial real estate brokerage industry,” Ernie Jarvis, founder of Jarvis Commercial Real Estate in Washington, DC, said. “While I am genuinely heartened by the show of corporate support for diversity and inclusion during these tumultuous times, the industry has a long way to go before it authentically reflects the culturally rich and diverse cities and communities in which we operate.”

Other data shows that women and minorities face an unusual struggle to access the capital needed to grow their businesses in all industries, particularly real estate. For example, in 2018 African Americans received only 2% of all SBA loan products. In 2019, a study by Harvard Business School and Bella Research identified only 17 women-owned and 21 minority-owned real estate investment firms among the total universe of 967 firms listed in the Preqin database, taking up less than 5% of the industry. The percentage of real estate assets under management is even lower, with women and minorities representing about 0.8% and 1.2% respectively, of the industry totals.

We still have a long way to go, and the Coleman Group hopes to be a leader in helping strengthen the role of women and POC in real estate in the Greater Boston Area.

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Abby Sullivan

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