Reimagining Gender

Building Gender Awareness in Real Estate

It’s critical to understand issues around gender identity in order to grow your clientele and best serve their needs.

November 13, 2021

Working with people across the gender identity spectrum isn’t just about being inclusive, it’s smart business.

That’s the takeaway Lisa Kenney, CEO of Reimagine Gender, wants to impart to real estate professionals to help them better serve their clients. Kenney, who presented during the “Reimagining Gender: Are REALTORS® Ready to Navigate this New Reality?” session at the 2021 REALTORS® Conference & Expo in San Diego, said 56% of Gen Z knows someone who uses gender neutral pronouns, according to J. Walter Thompson data. And a Harris poll found that 12% of millennials identify as transgender or gender nonconforming.

2021 REALTORS Conference & Expo logo

“We’re not talking about a small number of folks. The Gen Zs are really changing the expectations of how we think, see, and talk about gender,” Kenney said. “We’re all affected by constructs of gender ... it’s a conversation for all of us.”

Millennials and Gen Z are a major demographic component of current and future buyers, so it’s critical not only to be cognizant of using proper pronouns, but also other gendered terms.

Sarah Gustafson, ABR, CRS, PSA, SRES, with Janice Mitchell Real Estate, Inc., in North Oxford, Mass., sends all of her new clients an “all about you” client intake form to fill out. One of the questions she includes is what pronouns they want her to use.

Real estate pros should also avoid gendering their communications. Instead of using Ms., Mr., or other gendered language in an email, simply use contacts’ names or lead with “good morning,” Gustafson suggests. Don’t assume gender based on name, appearance, or sex.

When you write listing descriptions for the MLS, avoid phrases like “his and hers closets,” “man cave,” and “she shed,” and avoid talking about a garage being a place for “all the boys’ toys.”

Kenney, who identifies as nonbinary, shared a personal experience working with an agent to sell a house. The agent did a great job, they said, except for referring to Kenney and their wife as “ladies.” And even after Kenney asked the agent to not use the term, the agent continued.

“This can cost us business without even realizing it,” said Gustafson. “Someone might not say something and then never refer you down the line, or they could be mad and post it on social media.”

When people traditionally think of gender, they also think of sex, Kenney said. However, those two separate concepts are often conflated. The gender reveal party, for instance, is actually a sex reveal party.

Gender identity is a person’s internal experience and the language used to describe it typically falls into three categories:

  • Binary: man, woman
  • Nonbinary: genderqueer or genderfluid. They don’t see the world as made up of one of two genders but rather a continuum or mosaic, Kenney said.
  • Ungendered, agender, or genderless: This is someone who doesn’t identify with any gender, Kenney said.

The social dimension of gender is how we present our gender to the world and how individuals, societies, and cultures perceive, interact, and try to shape our gender. Often, gender cues vary from person to person, such as how they dress, their hairstyle, and more. But gender cues can be stereotyped and a person’s reaction to other people’s gender cues can be misread or interpreted based on their own biases or preconceived notions of gender.

Sexual orientation refers to the relational, interpersonal relationships a person has that involve physical, sexual, and romantic attraction to others.

Gustafson suggests understanding your own gender story and how it impacts your understanding and perceptions of gender to better serve your clients. Use a gender lens in your real estate business by examining the ways gender impacts your people, processes, and systems. And ensure agents, on your team or at your company, and key stakeholders have a common framework and language for gender, Gustafson said.