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How RBG Lifted Women, the Real Estate Industry, and the U.S. Economy as a Whole

How RBG Lifted Women, the Real Estate Industry, and the U.S. Economy as a Whole

5 min read
Sue Hough

Sue Hough is passionate about everything construction and loves building.

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“There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” –Madeleine Albright

As a champion of women and national women’s equality, Ruth Bader Ginsburg wasn’t the first to move women toward homeownership, but she did complete the work of those who came before her.

When the Real Estate Industry Opened Its Doors Up to Women

Since 1794, women have been an integral part of the real estate industry. But their contributions and accomplishments within it were long overshadowed by male-biased laws.

While women could sell property, they still had no ability to own a home outright without a male co-signer. For women, homeownership was just a dream—until Mississippi became the first state to allow women to own property in 1839. Almost 30 years later, the Homestead Act would allow widows to claim land.

And it wasn’t until 1910, when the National Realtor’s Association (NAR) accepted its first female member, that the industry really started to pivot. Next, came the establishment of the Women’s Council of Realtors in 1938, and by 1978, women became majority members of NAR.

Related: 5 Things I Didn’t Expect About Being a Female Real Estate Investor

A Woman Who Wouldn’t Back Down

Moving women along even further toward homeownership was one of the few females enrolled at Harvard Law School in 1957. Ruth Bader Ginsburg didn’t anticipate actually practicing law when she graduated; however, she was inspired to do so during her time in law school.

She observed the many inequalities between men and women firsthand—and the social system that allowed for it. All of this solidified Ginsburg’s determination to change one small piece of it (at least!).

Gavel wooden and house for home buying or selling of bidding or lawyer of home real estate and building concept.

At this time, it was still hard to be taken seriously as a woman. It’s something almost all females have faced at one point or another—even today. Ginsburg’s personal experiences with sexism motivated her to work for the American Civil Liberties Union in the 1970s. She founded the Women’s Rights Project, one of the major arms working toward national women’s equality under law.

Still, Ginsburg believed in the importance of working on behalf of not just women, but also men, understanding that equality goes both ways. In her eyes, that applied to equal pay, education, and homeownership.

Related: How I Learned to “Have It All” as a Working Mom (Hint: I Ditched My 9-5)

Ginsburg on Education

Before 1996, state-funded schools were not required to include women. Ginsburg changed that, and soon enough, young women became more likely than young men to graduate from college.

Since the 1990s, women have outnumbered men in both college enrollment and college completion rates, reversing a trend that lasted through the 1960s and 1970s. By 2013, 37% of women ages 25 to 29 had at least a bachelor’s degree, compared with 30% of men in the same age range.

Ginsburg on Equal Pay

And, thanks to Ginsburg’s 2007 dissention on equal pay, the public and U.S. Congress changed the law and strengthened equal pay protections for women.

Today, women currently hold 29% of senior management positions and Harvard Business shows that, since 1980, women now make up the majority of new management jobs created from 1980 to 2010. While men still make up the majority of managers in total, their share of 60% is far smaller than the three-quarters they held in 1980.

Meanwhile, a number of industries are not just led by women but dominated by female-employees, as well. Thus, today, women earning more can actually afford to buy their own homes. In fact, single women accounted for 20% of home purchases in 2019, and the number is expected to grow.

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Ginsburg on Homeownership

It’s almost ironic that women were asked to keep and maintain a home—they were absolute experts on homes—yet were not able to purchase one on their own.

It’s no mistake that 1974 is so close, numerically, to 1794 when the real estate industry launched in the U.S. That was the year, 180 years later, Ruth Bader Ginsburg paved the way for the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, allowing women—for the first time—to apply for and receive credit cards and mortgages without a co-signer.

This act singlehandedly changed the buying power of American homes more so than any other social factor. Moreover, the ability for women to buy their own homes gave a boost to the real estate and construction industries—industries that are now led by women and female investors.

In America’s 50 largest metropolitan areas, women “out own” men by more than 1.5 million properties, with the highest ratios of single female homeowners in Tampa, Florida (where single women own 16.4% of households and single men own 11.5%), New Orleans (16.1% versus 10.9%) and Buffalo, New York (16.1% to 10.2%).

Related: 4 Differences Between the Way Women & Men Invest in Real Estate

Less Obvious Reasons Female Homeownership Is So Important

Having the ability to own a home independent of any male has changed the market and our communities. Females buy for their families and invest wholeheartedly in their communities on behalf of their families and others.

Here are a few ways:

  • Women champion for school and social reforms, increasing the need for high-performing school districts.
  • Women out volunteer their male counterparts by 29%, fostering family-centric and civic-minded events to take place.

Women’s ability to connect and build community has changed the way we plan and think about communities and homebuilding in those communities.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Legacy

“Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.” –Ginsburg

Thanks in very large part to Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s work—from the ACLU to the Supreme Court—today, single women get an education, good-paying jobs, credit cards, and home loans. We can invest in our futures, without the assistance of a husband, brother, or father.

Nowadays, more women are the breadwinners in their household and responsible for buying their family home, maintaining it, and paying the mortgage, along with taking care of all of their family’s needs now and in the future. Moreover, industries around the world now understand the buying power of women—that females are the ones making decisions on purchases from homes to groceries and household items to travel and everything in between.

Related: Women Influence 91% of Home-Buying Purchases. So Why Aren’t More Investing?

Women are a powerhouse of spending that has been critical to the growth of the U.S. economy. Some might even say we’re the backbone of the U.S. economy.

Ginsburg took a revolution for women’s equality that was already brewing and expanded it. Her work opened the door for women to not only have their own homes but also cars, investments, and more. She made it OK for women to have goals, be career-driven, seek out powerful positions, and become entrepreneurs.

As of 2019, women outnumbered men in the workforce. We start businesses at twice the rate of men. If an independent contractor, owning a home can be a benefit come tax time.

In 2020 and beyond, women are creating their own financial stability because we’re now able to make lasting investments for our own futures and our family members’ futures. This would not be possible without the belief, determination, and commitment of the late Honorable Justice Ginsburg.

And, so, we look toward the future, to the women who will continue Ginsburg’s work and expand the roles of women in the real estate industry, as well as within their families, communities, and workplaces.

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What do you believe to be some of the more memorable accomplishments of the Notorious RBG?

Share below in the comments.