Real Estate News & Commentary

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

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Silhouette Lady of Justice and light of God concept: Dramatic sunset with twilight color sky and clouds

“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.

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

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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.

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

Share below in the comments.

Sue Hough is passionate about everything construction and loves building. For most of her adult life, Sue has been a residential builder in the Chicago market and founder of
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    Sharon Beatty
    Replied 14 days ago
    Beautifully said! Thank you for the facts and figures that demonstrate objectively how much of a difference RBG made in our ability to lead full and meaningful lives.
    Sue Hough Developer from Chicago IL
    Replied 14 days ago
    Sharon, Thank you for your kind words and I hope you are able to enjoy some of RBG’s efforts today!
    Jennifer T. Investor from New Orleans, Louisiana
    Replied 14 days ago
    I also appreciate this well written article that has so many interesting facts and is also, in part, a tribute to Justice Ginsburg. Unfortunately, while New Orleans is one of the metro areas called out for having a wide difference between the higher number of single women vs. single men who own homes, this city is very deeply and disturbingly patriarchal and completely dismissive of women. Case in point. I've been living in NOLA for 20 years. I have 100% control and ownership of my LLC that is registered in Louisiana. Under my leadership, I have renovated 6 dilapidated properties that brought 10 rental units back to market. But do you know how the City of New Orleans, Bureau of Revenue addresses letters to me? "Dear Sir". Yes! Right here and right now. In the Year 2020. The City of New Orleans with their salutation says to me and the hundreds of thousands of other businesses in this city that "if you own a business, then you must be a man".
    Sue Hough Developer from Chicago IL
    Replied 14 days ago
    Jennifer, First a well deserved congratulations is in order for your many accomplishments. My suggestion is to keep on doing what you are doing without regard to your gender. Not everyone is ready to embrace equality, but I do believe time will heal all inequalities. If it makes you feel any better, or just to share a laugh; as a woman general contractor many people don’t quite know how to take me, especially in the South. Recently I was conducting business in central South Carolina at the county building/zoning department, where four out of four people I interacted with commented in some form “how nice it is that you are helping your husband by taking care of these simple tasks while he is working hard ”. I decided I was outnumbered by Southern “charm”, and left the building without comment and smiled to myself thankful I live in a country where I have the right to own my company. Good luck to you Jennifer!
    Susan Maneck Investor from Jackson, Mississippi
    Replied 14 days ago
    Oh, if only she could have hung in there for a few more months.
    Glenn F. Rental Property Investor from Virginia Beach, VA
    Replied 13 days ago
    Definitely disagree with you on that one
    Joe Chase
    Replied 12 days ago
    Me too
    Sue Hough Developer from Chicago IL
    Replied 13 days ago
    Susan, Ditto!! Have a wonderful day and enjoy the many benefits we are afforded as a result of Ruth’s tireless efforts.
    John T. Rental Property Investor from Central U. S. A.
    Replied 13 days ago
    Ruth Bader Ginsburg believed in a "living and breathing" Constitution. She interpreted the Constitution based on her personal feelings, whim and fancy of the moment. RBG's opinions were results-driven, meaning that she first determined the outcome that she wanted and then twisted to law to reach her conclusion.
    Joe Chase
    Replied 12 days ago
    Agree John
    Sue Hough Developer from Chicago IL
    Replied 12 days ago
    John, I prepared this article to share my gratitude to Justice Ginsberg for her work which allowed women to own a home independent of men and obtain credit solely based on their creditworthiness, thus changing the real estate market and shifting the buying power within America. I would love to hear from you your thoughts and opinions of how women obtaining equal credit status has influenced your real estate endeavors. Thank you and have a wonderful day!
    Chad Swanson Rental Property Investor from Long Beach, CA
    Replied 13 days ago
    So she made up laws instead of following the ones laid out in the constitution. I thought that’s the job of our elected officials... weird.
    Krista Dunn from Charlotte, NC
    Replied 13 days ago
    Yes, thank you for this beautiful and very informational tribute! Your comment about being outnumbered by “Southern Charm” is spot on and I appreciate your choice to focus instead on the positives that RBG worked lifelong to afford us.
    Sue Hough Developer from Chicago IL
    Replied 12 days ago
    Thank you Krista for your kind words. I truly wish you are able to celebrate some of our “wins” today.
    Amanda Gant from Washington, DC
    Replied 13 days ago
    I did not know that in 1974 women could not get credit cards without male co-signers!!!! That is just 11 years before I was born. What the hell kind of country were we living in??? This makes me pity and understand our mothers more and more. They did not come from a country that celebrated or allowed strong or independent women. They had to fight for so much, and go through so much cultural change and really prove themselves. Give it up for RBG and the generation of women she empowered to pave the way.
    Sue Hough Developer from Chicago IL
    Replied 12 days ago
    Amanda, It has been a struggle for many years to achieve equality and many more years to come for others. I am grateful we live in a country where our efforts are not in vain and strong, compassionate leaders can and do make positive differences. On a side note; when I was growing up in the early 70’s my mother signed her name “Mrs. Peter Corso”. It wasn’t until I was researching information on RBG’s accomplishments that I realized my mother had to sign her name that way on legal and bank documents, as she was considered under the care of my father and unable to obtain credit on her own. We have come a long way and I am forever grateful!
    Stephen Sloane
    Replied 13 days ago
    I'm no fan of many of Justice Ginberg's policies, such as abortion rights, but I do believe in giving credit where it is due. Without that, we trade in lies and distortion. I didn't know she fought for women to have mortages, credit cards, etc. on their own merit, and is to be commended for it. The most wonderful thing I know about her is that she and Justice Scalia, though opposed on most political issues, were dear friends and he used to take her hunting. Of course we're here to learn about real estate investing whether on the Left or Right, but wouldn't it be wonderful if we could all take a leaf out of these two justice's books and treat our other as we want to be treated ourselves.
    Sue Hough Developer from Chicago IL
    Replied 12 days ago
    Stephen How wonderful we can disagree and agree together. Thank you for that!
    Joe Chase
    Replied 13 days ago
    Slightly surprised to see this article in here. Ginsberg was not as well loved as many would have you think. This is a hot political topic and I would rather not encounter this type of article on a real estate site that I read. Please stick to real estate!
    Ivan Corona
    Replied 7 days ago
    Joe Chase; agreed, more so considering "equal treatment." BP pulled the plug on "What Trump knew about RE" article earlier this quarter.
    Sue Hough Developer from Chicago IL
    Replied 12 days ago
    Joe, Thanks for sharing your position. The article was intended to focus on the work Justice Ginsberg accomplished relating to women’s rights to purchase homes and affording them independent buying power, which directly affects the real estate market. Wishing you a wonderful day!
    Chuck B. Investor from Louisville, Kentucky
    Replied 12 days ago
    She opened every door that made it possible for this new judge to come in. Now we have to hope the new judge doesn't try to close them behind her.
    Sue Hough Developer from Chicago IL
    Replied 12 days ago
    Thank you Chuck for sharing your insight. Has the impact of women being a driving force in home buying affected your or your real estate career?
    Sue Hough Developer from Chicago IL
    Replied 12 days ago
    To my fellow Bigger Pockets friends; I would love to hear from you regarding the impact you have experienced of how we now live in a predominantly “women based” buying arena within the real estate community. Any takers?
    Rick Grubbs Rental Property Investor from Salisbury, NC
    Replied 12 days ago
    Very disappointing to see BP promoting this. I disagree with almost all of her SCOTUS decisions as do most real estate investors who do not desire to see our country taken down a path to socialism. The only point of agreement I know of from her recent past would be when she said in an interview that the President is elected for four years and not three, so the President should nominate justices in his fourth year. Watch it for yourself on YouTube if you doubt that was her position.
    Joe Chase
    Replied 12 days ago
    I agree Rick. Does not belong on this site. Why can't we not have politics involved in everything. Especially controversial issues
    Amber Bennett Realtor from Saint Petersburg, FL
    Replied 12 days ago
    @suehough this was so well written and taught me more about RBG and the laws she helped reform than any other article I have ever read. I had no idea the patriarchal lending and ownership laws extended as late as the 70s!!! Thank you for this post!
    Sue Hough Developer from Chicago IL
    Replied 11 days ago
    Amber, thank you very much for your comments and I am delighted you enjoyed the article. I hope you have a wonderful day!
    Karen O. from NYC, NY
    Replied 12 days ago
    It's hard to fathom that a spare 8 years prior to obtaining my first charge card from Sears, with it's $500 credit line, I would likely have been refused that credit line all together were it not for RBG. She will be missed.
    Sue Hough Developer from Chicago IL
    Replied 11 days ago
    Thank you very much Karen, I’m so happy you enjoyed the article. And it is amazing to think how recent women did not have equal credit rates. But you’re glad we do today.
    Adrian Ayub
    Replied 11 days ago
    ACB will be better.
    Ivan Corona
    Replied 7 days ago
    POW!
    Grace Gibb
    Replied 11 days ago
    Thank you for your awesome post, Sue! I love seeing female empowerment on this site and the direct relation of RBG to Real Estate was icing on the cake for me!
    Sue Hough Developer from Chicago IL
    Replied 11 days ago
    Thank you Grace, I’m delighted you enjoyed the article. Have a wonderful day!
    Ron Hamilton Investor from Henderson, Nevada
    Replied 10 days ago
    Great post! I love all of the positive feedback in the comments! It is amazing what she was able to accomplish.
    Sue Hough Developer from Chicago IL
    Replied 9 days ago
    Ron, thank you very much for taking part in this blog and your comments. Have a fabulous day!
    John Murray from Portland, Oregon
    Replied 10 days ago
    I have always been and entrepreneur, those concepts means many things. One main concept is to swim against the current in many ways. To capitalize on a system and gain advantage of opportunity which others do not see. Conventional education is a waste of time, the entrepreneur knows this. Men and women entrepreneurs will thrive in any given system. RBG was not an entrepreneur but really smart and understood the system and thrived in her choice of opportunity. Legitimized power is a complicated course of study and passion is needed to enter into that profession. We entrepreneurs steer clear of passion and embrace our willingness to see in the future, sacrifice present comfort for future success. The average woman or man does not realize what the entrepreneur game is. If they did they would not have mounting education debt, competing with each other in the corporate or bureaucratic game. Compete with yourself and you will understand what and entrepreneur is, get wrap around the axles over politics and you can become a SCOTUS Judge.
    Sue Hough Developer from Chicago IL
    Replied 9 days ago
    Thank you John, your words contain great wisdom. Thank you for sharing and I hope you have a wonderful day!