Commentary by Desirée Patno
Women are making waves, from small startups to powerful boardrooms, but is it enough? Diversity does not only mean people from different ethnic backgrounds, but it also means that gender and gender diversity are not as widespread as they should be. The Professional Diversity Network’s Diversity Jobs Index and Report for the fourth quarter of 2015 states that women make up 41.5 percent of the national workforce, and thrive in industries like accounting and bookkeeping, legal services, education and health. What hinders them from flourishing in other industries like engineering, technology, construction, and law enforcement?
A survey polling over 200 women with at least 10 years’ experience in the tech industry, Elephant in the Valley, found that 40 percent thought it essential to reveal less about their families to be taken seriously at interviews, and 52 percent of women who took maternity leave decided to shorten it, to protect their jobs. Wage gap, gender bias and a lack of flexibility may be some of the key reasons that force women to leave or decide against re-entering the workforce.
In several industries, women who quit their jobs as soon as they have children are unjustly considered unprofitable investments; this is used as an excuse to pay them lower wages than male employees and deny them advancements. While higher education may improve overall income, there is a disparity in the pay of men and women with similar qualifications.
According to the American Association of University Women’s (AAUW) The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap (Fall 2015 Edition), women without high school diplomas earn 76 percent of what men earn with similar qualifications. Women with Associate degrees earn 77 percent, those with Bachelor’s degrees 75 percent, Master’s degrees 73 percent, Professional degrees 74 percent and Doctoral degrees 79 percent of what their equally qualified male counterparts earn. If a woman makes 75 percent of a man’s salary, most people infer this as a 25 percent difference in pay. In reality, it means that the man makes 33 percent more than the woman. This data confirms the dismal truth that no matter how educated you are, as a woman, you most likely do not make as much as a man with the same qualifications.
Obstacles Faced by Mothers
Historically, not many men step away from their careers to become stay-at-home dads while their partners become sole bread winners. Women are resilient and ambitious and should not be forced to choose between family and career; a happy medium needs to be reached.
Regardless of whether you are married or single, being a mother is a full-time job. Several mothers tend to push their careers to the back burner, where it eventually gets lost and forgotten. Does this happen because women aren’t able to cope with the stress of being a working mother, or is it attributed to the lack of flexibility in their home or work environments?
Enrolling your child in day care may seem like a saving grace, but that’s easier said than done. According to data from the Child Care Attendance Automation (CCAA), almost 11 million children under the age of five are enrolled in child care arrangements, where they spend at least 36 hours a week. Child care does not come cheap, and a study conducted by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found that child care costs are more than the average in-state college tuitions at public institutions in 33 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. With child care being so expensive, many women decide to quit their jobs even though it means one less income for their family; the option of saving the money spent on child care services is more attractive to several parents and unfortunately leads to many women opting out of careers.
Gender bias and a visible wage-gap has not stopped women from excelling at what they do. According to Women in Business: the Value of Diversity, a report by Grant Thornton, American companies with women in their boardrooms made $567 billion more than those with all-male boardrooms in the past year. These data affirm that women are capable leaders, even though their earnings are not on par with men. There are many successful women leading large companies, while raising their families, but we should take into consideration that not every woman has the money and resources to make work-life balance a reality.
Real estate is one industry where salary is more dependent on work than gender or qualifications. According to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), 7 percent of REALTORS® are high school graduates, 11 percent have Associate degrees, 31 percent have a college degree, 30 percent have Bachelor’s degrees, eight percent attend graduate school and 12 percent have Graduate degrees or higher. Real estate is ideal for professionals of all education levels looking to switch careers, earn an extra income or find a more flexible work schedule. Real estate professionals have the liberty to conduct business around the clock; you are your own boss, can pick with whom you want to work, and have less disparity in pay.
For women who leave other industries to pursue real estate, it is essential to build healthy relationships that can lead to comprehensive and trustworthy teams. Women are excellent multi-taskers, but a team provides the leeway to pick up your child from school or rush to a doctor’s appointment, while a team member shows a home to a client. Not having to choose between being there for your family and losing a potential client reduces stress or feelings of guilt.
Technology is playing an important part in creating flexibility with some interesting tools like virtual 3D tours of homes, e-signature services, cloud storage solutions, and scanner and mortgage calculator applications for smart phones that streamline work. These tools help women stay connected with their families, team and clients while running their lives.
Time is of the essence for women professionals, and in order to satisfy this diverse group and retain more women in the workforce, it is critical to map out a game plan that strikes a balance between family and work. For REALTORS®, who are comprised of 58 percent women, the real estate industry provides the career accommodations to make this balancing act more possible.
Desirée Patno is founder and CEO of the National Association of Women in Real Estate Business (NAWRB).
For more information, visit www.nawrb.com.