02/15/2016 12:13 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

I Look Like a Real Estate Agent: Why Do They Think I'm His Assistant?


Recently I was at an open home viewing with a newbie salesperson who was there to learn from me and get a feel for how open homes go. He was a middle aged man who had never worked in real estate previously. Either struggling financially or oblivious to the concept of style he wore an ill fitting suit and cheap shoes which were dwarfed by his overly long trousers. Let's just say he wasn't exactly oozing success. I, on the other hand, presented a lot better than him (I thought).

Everything was going well as we stood side by side at the front door waiting for people to walk up the driveway. Soon enough a couple came along and we welcomed them, registered their details and equipped them with a brochure and floor plan of the property so they would be able to navigate their way around with ease. They soon returned to us and started asking my colleague questions all about the house (that he'd never seen before). I quickly stepped in and saved him from potentially looking completely incompetent and took over the inspection from there. So why did the customers assume he was the authority and not me? I'll never know for sure but recently I've noticed some female real estate agents with teams of all female assistants and I can see how this could be an advantage. It could certainly curtail causes for confusion.

During the auction for that same property a woman I had never met walked up to me while the auction was in full swing and asked if she could bid subject to finance. "No sorry -- you cannot bid on the property subject to finance" I replied. This is a standard term of contract for Auctions and I have sold countless properties by public auction over the past 15 years. In fact I had very recently taken part in auctioneering classes where I learned all 18 conditions of sale off by heart but that's a whole other story.

"My husband is on the phone and he's a lawyer. He says all contracts are subject to finance so I'll go ask someone who knows what they're talking about" she said before walking away in frustration. She then approached one of the young male salespeople who had less than one year's experience in real estate and in fact worked for us and knew very little about auctions. She didn't get the answer she was looking for nor did she buy the property.

Unfortunately not at all surprisingly these aren't isolated incidents and I know it's happened to a lot of my colleagues as well. I wonder whether this is people's unconscious bias' coming to the surface similar to how a Freudian slip of the tongue pops out and let's us know what we might really be thinking. Perhaps it is high time that we decide to become a little more conscious of our own personal biases and value judgements and catch ourselves if we find ourselves stereotyping someone.

It's not just potential buyers who assume that female real estate professionals are someone's assistant or not in a leadership role. I was at an inspection with my husband once when we were showing another agency's buyer a waterfront apartment. My role was to talk with the buyer's agent while my husband could present the features and benefits of the apartment to the customer without being interrupted. The young male buyer's agent innocently asked me "So how long have you been Craig's assistant?"

Residential property management is by far the most complex residential real estate specialty and it should be noted that it is dominated by women. In 2016 there are far more male real estate salespeople than female however amongst the top real estate sales people it seems to be almost equal proving that women are especially suited to and excel at real estate careers.

Did anyone notice that in 2014 a female named Tracey Fellows was appointed Director and CEO of REA Group?


REA Group operates Australia's leading residential and commercial property websites, and, European sites,, and, and Chinese property site They also have shareholdings in Move, Inc. in the United States and iProperty Group Ltd in Asia.

Did anyone notice that Ray White International's top performing business, Ray White Remeura in New Zealand, is owned and lead by a woman called Megan Jaffe?


Did anyone notice that the CEO of one of Australia's peak real estate bodies, the REIQ, is also a woman, former solicitor, Antonia Mercorella?


This begs more questions, "Why don't people grant more respect to women in real estate?" and "Why do people often assume that women in business are helpers rather than leaders?" While women in real estate wait for people's perceptions to catch up to modern day reality women can choose to follow Ivanka Trump's lead and turn this situation into an advantage.

Ivanka Trump:

"I never mind when somebody underestimates me... I joke about this with my father all the time. If somebody has a meeting with Donald Trump, they will come in fully armed, whereas if they have a meeting with me, they are less likely to be prepared. That's an advantage for me."