Breaking Boundaries: Women in Real Estate

It wasn’t all that long ago that real estate was very much a man's world. In the early days, it was nearly unheard of for women to make a mark in the industry. However, by the turn of the 20th century, as society began to shift, pioneering women started to challenge these norms. 

These trailblazers bravely stepped into the realm of real estate. They carved out a place for themselves and for the countless women who'd follow in their footsteps. Their tenacity wasn't just about selling homes—it was about proving they had every right to be there.

With that in mind, our team is excited to share a glimpse into the history of women in real estate. We'll trace their involvement, achievements, and how they’ve shaped the landscape we see today. In addition, we’ll celebrate their contributions, inspire the next generation, and reaffirm the immense value women bring to the table.

Early Involvement

The story of women in real estate goes back further than you might think. Even as far back as 1794, there were traces of their presence. Of course, in these early years, their roles looked a little different. 

Often, women were behind the scenes, managing administrative tasks and providing essential support. Think of them as the unsung heroes, ensuring the smooth operation of fledgling real estate enterprises.

But as we approached the late 1800s, something exciting began to happen. The dynamic women of the era weren’t content just being in the background. They aspired for more, and by the 1880s, a few bold souls began to transition from these support roles. 

They stepped confidently into the roles of real estate agents and brokers. These pioneers were about to set a new standard, showing that women could lead and thrive in the industry. They weren’t just setting the stage for the future; they were redefining it.

Emergence of Women in NAR

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) was founded in 1908, and it quickly became the gold standard for real estate professionals. However, if you looked at its membership in the early days, you might have noticed something – women were notably absent. It wasn’t a surprise, given the era, but it was clear that a change was on the horizon.

Enter Corrine Simpson in 1910. Not only did she shatter that glass ceiling, but she made history as the first woman to join the NAR. Her brave step forward wasn't just a personal win, but a testament to all the women working in real estate. It served as proof that they belonged as much as their male counterparts.

However, this was just the first step to full acceptance among their peers. Many local REALTOR® associations still barred women from membership in those early years. So, in 1938, a “women’s division” was started. 

Now known as the Women’s Council, it wasn’t just about inclusivity. It provided a platform for women to connect, share experiences, and collaborate while showcasing their collective strength and influence.

The Great Depression

The Great Depression was a decade that tested the resolve of many and altered the course of countless lives. The real estate industry during the Depression, like all others, felt its crippling grip. While the challenges were widespread, women in real estate bore a unique brunt.

Before the 1930s, women had started making significant headway in the industry. However, the economic downturn saw a drastic decline in female brokers. It wasn't just about dwindling business opportunities; societal expectations came roaring back. As jobs became scarce, many believed that available roles should be reserved for men.

Despite the progress they'd made, many female brokers found doors that had previously been open now closed shut. It was a challenging time, a step backward in many ways. But, as history shows, challenges often sow the seeds for future resilience and resurgence.

Post World War II Advancements

World War II brought change. It transformed industries, shifted perspectives, and reshaped societies. For women, it was both a challenge and an opportunity. And as the war ended, the real estate industry witnessed a notable shift.

During the 1940s, as many men were deployed overseas, women stepped up in various sectors, real estate included. Their reemergence in the industry wasn't just a fill-in. It marked the revival of the female spirit in a domain that once sidelined them. Women weren't just back; they were making strides, closing deals, and carving a niche for themselves.

Indeed, the post-war era set the stage for a renewed appreciation of women's roles in the real estate world. It was a reaffirmation that talent knows no gender, and dedication will always find its way.

Women's Liberation Movement and Further Opportunities

The 1960s was a time of rebirth, a decade marked by voices seeking justice, equality, and opportunities. At the forefront was the women's liberation movement. It brought waves of change to the nation, reverberating through various sectors, including real estate.

This movement empowered women to challenge the status quo, ask questions, and demand equal opportunities. As it swayed the minds of the masses, it subtly transformed the real estate industry. Women were no longer just participants; they were seeking leadership roles, pushing boundaries, and shaking off age-old restrictions.

A significant win came when the National Association of Realtors (NAR) made a pivotal change. By opening up membership to sales agents, it welcomed a broader spectrum of professionals, allowing many more women to join. This wasn't just an administrative move. It was an acknowledgment and recognition of the ever-increasing role women played in the real estate business.

The women's liberation movement and evolving industry norms created an environment where women felt seen, valued, and poised for success. It was a decade that laid a solid foundation for the impressive strides women would make in the years to come.

Major Shifts and Achievements

The decades following the 1970s witnessed an exhilarating shift in the real estate landscape. As society moved forward, women in real estate didn't just keep pace; they led the way, achieving numerous milestones.

Imagine the excitement when in 1978 women surpassed men as a percentage of the total membership in the NAR. It wasn’t just a statistic; it symbolized the hard work, resilience, and tenacity by countless women in the industry.

And then, 1992 ushered in another remarkable moment. Dorcas Helfant-Browning was inducted as the first female president of NAR. It set a precedent, telling countless women that they too could aspire for and achieve top positions in real estate.

By 1996, the tides had clearly turned. Women, for the first time, represented the majority of broker licensees. It was a testament to the dedication, skills, and expertise women brought to the table.

Today, 67% of REALTORS® are women. This figure tells a story of strength, perseverance, and an undying spirit to break barriers and carve out success.

The journey of women in real estate from the 1970s to the present is not just about statistics and milestones. It's a celebration of every woman who dared to dream, every hurdle they overcame, and the legacies they continue to build.


Looking back at this incredible journey, it's evident that the real estate industry has been enriched by the determination and expertise of countless women. They've not only contributed to the field but have continually redefined it. From administrative roles to leading from the front, women have shown time and again that passion, resilience, and dedication can shape industries and influence generations.

I'm proud to be a part of this ever-evolving landscape, where every deal is an opportunity to make a difference and every handshake symbolizes trust. If you're thinking of making a move, let us be your Triangle REALTORS®.  Trust in a legacy built by pioneers.

Contact us and let's write the next chapter of your real estate story together at A Cole Realty.

Post a Comment