It's no secret that the real estate industry, like many others, is dominated by men.
I recently looked into the figures and the most up to date Census data recorded 64,700 real estate agents in Australia in 2011, with 52 per cent of those men and 48 per cent women. So it's actually almost 50/50.
But while there are more women in the industry than ever before and the gap has closed compared to 20, 10 and even5 years ago, there's still a gender imbalance - especially when it comes to leadership.
A 2014 report by consultants Ernst & Young found women make up less than 10 per cent of CEOs in the Australian property sector. Men dominate management roles and above with women occupying around only 25 per cent of management positions, it also found.
So why aren't more women in real estate?
The property industry is traditionally viewed as a bit of an old boys' club which can be discouraging for women. Real estate is also a tough world. It is competitive, it can be stressful and you often need a thick skin.
The Ernst & Young report found as with other industries, women are joining the property industry at the entry-level but are leaving before they move up the ladder, meaning there are very few women in leadership positions.
The research found that this drop-off is occurring before women typically start families and may be a symptom of women 'seeing the writing on the wall' when it comes to the career path ahead of them.
A lot of women also enter the industry in administrative or assistant roles because they do not have the confidence to take the lead, and there is a perception that there is a lack of leadership and strong women role models in real estate.
However, I believe the future is bright for women in real estate and my wish is for all women to have the opportunity to aim high within the industry if they have the talent and desire.
Women shouldn't be underestimated in real estate. They are becoming a powerful presence in the industry and being a woman can be a real advantage.
A feminine, empathetic manner and approach are advantages in selling, especially when stress is involved, whether it's financial or divorce or death. Women can help nurture a client, multi-task with a client and be social with a client. They also have no problem closing a sale.
Buying and selling decisions in the household are predominantly made by women. Being a female and able to connect on that level is a huge plus. Female agents also often find it easier to connect with families and their needs.
An inaugural ranking of Australia's most successful real estate agents by Real Estate Business (REB), a leading news source for the industry, found the Top 50 performing female agents had a whopping 3,705 listings throughout 2015, and 3,450 sales. The sales volumes accumulated by the group totalled over $4.4 billion.
Where this listing stands apart from REB's Top 100 Agents (of which only 10 were women) is in conversion rates. The average for Top 100 Agents was 95.30 per cent - with the average across the top 10 slightly lower at 93.22 per cent. The Top 50 Women had an average conversion rate of 96.89 per cent.
Women need to see real estate as a viable career choice and recognise that their talent, leadership and unique skills are vital to the industry.
Companies also need to appreciate the impact women are having on their organisations, and realise there is plenty to be gained by focusing and investing in gender diversity.
Shula Kentwell CEO, PRDnationwide Newcastle and Lake Macquarie