Our latest post comes to us from our very own Leslie Appleton-Young! Read about her below...
It’s a funny word and yet it’s not.
Combine “man” with “panel” and you’ll know why at the first WomanUP conference in 2017 I declared: “I’ve been going to ManUP conferences my whole life – it’s time to WomanUP!”.
In the Fall I attended the 10th Annual Economic Summit put on by the SCAG – the Southern California Association of Governments in downtown Los Angeles. It was a day-long program with several panels and keynotes addressing critical issues facing the region, including, of course, housing. I hadn’t attended one of their events in quite some time and was excited to be there and hear the current thinking on housing, transportation, business and climate change described in the agenda. And the very first panel was of special interest to me, the economic outlook for of the counties making up the region. But one look at the panel and my antennae were up – all white men, including the moderator. It wasn’t a panel – it was a “manel” and I wasn’t happy. Not at all.
A few weeks earlier at the WomanUP! Conference I had spoken about the difference in experiences between women in real estate and women in economics. I shared the struggle from the trenches as young female economics graduate students and Ph.D.’s fought to be heard, published and promoted in a profession with known and documented hostility toward women. I wanted to understand why the word “feminist” rings so strongly with me and yet is not warmly embraced by many women in real estate. And I believe the primary reason is that in a sales profession, selling houses, in particular, women have excelled without encountering a male hierarchy that can stop them.
As the day went on things did improve. The panel on “Tackling Southern California’s Housing Crisis” had one woman, thank you Jennifer Hernandez, and the final panel “Strengthening the Region Through Connect SoCal” had one male, three women and was facilitated by Dr. Marion Boarnet from USC. So, as day ended, I silently apologized to SCAG for my initial irritation at the men-only economics panel and redoubled my resolve to support female economists. How? By refusing to participate in programs where women are not represented. It’s the least any of us can do, female or male.
Here’s what one recent study of academia found:
While both women and men may share gender biases, the study shows that the number of female speakers increased when women were colloquium organizers. When female chairs presided over meetings, women represented 49% of speakers. Male chairs chose women speakers 30% of the time.
What about the real estate industry?
I am discouraged to report that the problem persists.
As I write this in April 2020 the Coronavirus Pandemic has brought the economy to an abrupt halt and real estate sales are tumbling and brokerage firms are scrambling to cut costs and survive. There is a wealth of information available on blogs, podcasts, TV, and in impromptu Zoom gatherings and virtual conferences about what is happening and suggestions from industry leaders on how to weather the storm.
And there it is again: one manel after another.
In an industry with an abundance of female leaders, we can do better.