Even though women make up the majority of agents in the residential real estate industry, they are still underrepresented at the senior management and broker levels, a 2017 study conducted by the California Association of Realtors (CAR) found.


Sara Sutachan, the association’s vice president of industry relations, said she noticed the disparity through her work creating relationships with the leaders of the state’s largest brokerage firms. “We have several meetings [every year] with broker-owners and high-level executives across the state. We knew that the majority of realtors were women, but I was hard-pressed to find a woman at those meetings,” Sutachan told the Business Journal. “There was one meeting in particular where I was the only woman at the table.”


The results from the study echoed Sutachan’s observations. A survey of CAR members showed that, in brokerages of all sizes, 16% of women held the position of broker-owner, while 27% of men reported the same. In addition, a survey conducted by real estate news outlet Inman found that 30% of women felt that their gender prevented them from getting a raise, promotion or key assignment.


In response, Sutachan and her colleague, Leslie Appleton-Young, senior vice president and chief economist at CAR, started the WomanUP! campaign. This initiative, which began last year, aims to create a supportive community for women realtors to advance their careers. So far, the organization has held two conferences, and inspired a reaction Sutachan described as “nothing short of amazing.”


“People across the country are really intrigued,” she said. “They want to bring WomanUP! to their region. They want us to come out and talk about it across the state and nation. We struck a chord with the industry.”


At the first WomanUP! conference, CAR planned for 100 attendees but had to begin turning people away when more than 350 individuals showed up. This year’s conference, which took place last month, boasted 500 attendees. Several men also attended both events, Sutachan noted.


This year, WomanUP! launched a pilot mentoring program that paired 40 women mentees and mentors. Future goals also include expanding the initiative’s scope.


“We’re going national,” Sutachan said. “We want to focus our research not just on California brokerages but also find significant stories across the nation to augment and add to our current research in California. We’re allowing a national presence at our events as well.” As part of the research process, CAR interviewed 50 women realtors in California, and Sutachan said she wants to launch their stories in an e-book.


Sutachan is optimistic that change will happen quickly. We were able to call out a gap in the leadership of those firms, and we were able to do something about it,” she said. “My hope is that, in a couple of years, we won’t need WomanUP!. I hope we can make a dent, and that there’s gender equality for all in leadership.”