Real estate could be a viable career alternative for women hit by pandemic job losses

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Rapidly escalating housing prices have grabbed much attention during the pandemic, but the real estate industry could be notable for another, less-publicized reason: it’s provided stable employment for tens of thousands of Canadians during the past year.

Deemed an essential service, the real estate sector was a source of stability in an otherwise faltering employment market. Over the years, women have made tremendous progress in the sector, where their numbers as agents, brokers and even franchise owners have steadily grown.

That success is in marked contrast to some of the other sectors such as tourism and retail where women are more often employed than men. Almost half-a-million women remain unemployed, according to Statistics Canada’s latest data. Another 100,000 working-age women have left the labour force entirely as they are no longer searching for a job.

As thousands of women wait for employment opportunities, they could be wondering whether they should try to rejoin the same economic sector that offered inadequate compensation, limited growth opportunities and no tenure security, or switch careers into other industries that have fared better, at least during the pandemic.

Some professions such as engineering, health care and law require specialized training that might take years of full-time schooling. Others like real estate are not that prescribed, so individuals can pursue licensing even while working elsewhere. Indeed, real estate leaders believe women have a competitive advantage in the industry, making it a viable and exciting career path.

Julie Gaucher, owner and co-founder of Sutton Quebec, where 40 per cent of the 1,500 agents working under her umbrella group are women, has tracked agent productivity over the years and found women to be stable performers year after year, whereas males exhibit highs and lows.

She believes real estate is an ideal career for women because it offers the flexibility that few other professions offer. “You decide your schedule, and if you are a structured person, you will succeed,” she said.

The use of technology has undoubtedly helped, since it allows agents to email listings to clients, respond to messages, make calls, search for comps and prepare contract documents from pretty much anywhere, even from a car parked outside an arena or field, where their children could be playing hockey or soccer.

Gaucher believes women are better at multitasking, and, hence, they can simultaneously be with their families and do their work as a real estate professional.

Another veteran industry leader is Vivian Risi, broker-owner and chief executive of Royal LePage Your Community Realty, with more than 1,300 realtors operating under her banner in the Greater Toronto Area.