The History of Women in Real Estate
Women have come a long way in residential real estate. Today, more than 65% of active REALTORS® are women, but when the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) was established in the early 1900s, the organization’s membership was entirely made up of men. So as we celebrate women’s History Month, we’re taking a look back at the history of women in real estate.
Late 1700s – 1908
Originally working in administrative roles, women have been involved in real estate in the United States since the late 1700s and through its establishment as a legitimate business in the 1840s. By the late 1800s, women started working as agents and brokers.
In 1908, NAR was founded in Chicago with 120 members, all of whom were men despite there being 3,000 women brokers throughout the country at the time. While NAR did not have restrictions based on gender, local real estate boards had their own regulations, which often left women out.
1910 – 1970s
In 1910, Seattle-based broker Corrine Simpson became the first woman to officially join NAR, paving the way for the future of women in real estate. Local boards began reducing restrictions in the 1950s, and some even established special divisions to cater to female brokers, such as the “Realtyettes” in Portland.
In 1973, NAR opened membership to sales agents, bringing more women into the fold. Out of its 118,000 members at the time, 17% were women.
1990s – Present
Nearly two decades later, Chesapeake, Virginia native Dorcas Helfant-Browning became NAR’s first female president in 1992. By 1996, women achieved another significant milestone within the organization, representing the majority of broker licensees for the first time.
Since then, five other women have served as president of NAR, and the percentage of female REALTORS® has continued to grow.
Today there are several organizations committed to supporting women in real estate, including Commercial Real Estate Women Network, National Association of Women in Real Estate Business, and Women’s Council of REALTORS®.