Women in real estate - When it’s more than just a job

01 March 2022

By Kirsten Craze

It may be 2022, but the real estate industry still has one of the greatest pay gaps in Australia.

In its 2020 Scorecard, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) revealed the income divide in the Rental, Hiring and Real Estate industry was 25.2 per cent, or an annual difference of $36,058 between the average salaries of women and men. That split is shrinking (down from 31.4 per cent in 2017) but is still the third largest industry gap in the country.

WGEA reports the current national gender pay gap across all industries is around 20.1 per cent. With such a financial disparity between the sexes, it is fitting that at WIRE 2022, REINSW’s Women in Real Estate conference (WIRE) this March, the theme is The Future Demands More.

Employers should take the lead

Featured WIRE 2022 speaker Cathy Baker is an REINSW Residential Sales Chapter Committee Member, Principal of Belle Property Central Coast and an advocate for women in property.

“The industry is perfectly suited to women if both the employee and employer go about it the right way. Today women should be able to adapt to a role within the industry that suits them no matter what stage of life they’re at. If they want to work part time, full time, or different hours, there should be a way to retain a valuable female employee, but that comes back to the employer and how much they value their team,” she said.

An employer who watches the clock or expects employees to work traditional office hours, could be missing out according to Ms Baker.

“Whereas, if a staff member has the flexibility to go home between 3pm and 6pm to maybe pick up the kids from school, feed them, bath them and then do another couple of hours’ work at home; that employer will get a more loyal and valuable employee who stays with them longer.”

“It's really a matter of employers tuning into their employees’ interests and priorities, then tailoring a development plan, to not just help them succeed, but also get the best out of them.”

More than just sales

Leanne Pilkington, immediate past president of REINSW and the CEO of Laing + Simmons, will be the MC at WIRE 2022. She said a woman’s career path in property once looked very different, said Ms Pilkington.

“Back when I first started you were a receptionist, a salesperson or a property manager. That was about it and there were no shades of grey in any of those roles. Now, there's so much focus on social media, digital marketing, executive assistant roles, associates, buyers’ agents and a whole world of concierge services opening up. There’s even the corporate avenue. It’s not all about becoming a salesperson.”

Ms Baker agreed that the world of real estate is no longer black and white.

“I don’t hire salespeople in my business, I hire customer service people, because to me real estate isn’t about sales, it's about nurturing relationships for a long period of time.”

She said her current business plan was to “reverse engineer” real estate and think about not just selling or renting a home but creating lifestyle plans.

“I want to get rid of the transactional way of doing real estate and this mindset of cut-throat business, getting the commission and dropping the client. What if we turned it on its head and started to deal with people through all stages of life? It could be something that's really refreshing, particularly for women, because we’re nurturers.”

Lessons from lockdown

Post pandemic, Ms Pilkington said savvy business owners now have a different view of flexibility. “Obviously we know that typically women need flexibility more than men do, and it’s not as though people hadn’t thought of it before, but now we can see it’s a great time to be more mindful of it moving forward,” she said.

After COVID forced many professionals to conduct a career health check, Ms Baker created a mentoring program and cadetship for both women, and men.

“I'm really passionate about living and breathing by 10-year life plans and vision boards. I think this is a really relevant moment in time to reflect on the next five to 10 years of your life, rather than just the immediate future. It’s time to think about what you need to put in place now to stay really committed to your long-term future, achieve those goals and find the tools to support that.”

WIRE 2022 will also feature celebrated female speakers such as broadcaster and journalist Lisa Wilkinson, author and “CEO Whisperer” Maz Farrelly as well as resilience keynote speaker and author Heidi Dening. The event will be at the Royal Randwick Racecourse, Kensington on March 29. For more information and to purchase tickets visit REINSW.

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