When the statistics are telling you that women are increasingly chasing careers in Australian industries with better pay, you know that progress is happening and greater financial control is imminent.
Take Lesley Anton, who traded life as a corporate high-flyer for showing open homes on Sydney’s upper north shore, and she now couldn’t be happier.
“I wanted a career where I could use my skills and experience and have more control over my future, feel valued and love what I do,” she says. “I felt real estate would offer that.”
Her career change at the age of 50 puts her right on trend as residential real estate is among the fastest growth sector for Australian women.
That’s according to the inaugural Financy Women’s Index (FWI), which measures the economic progress of women in Australia.
Lesley’s drive embodies much of this year’s International Women’s Day social media hashtag #beboldforchange.
“International women’s day to me is women believing that they can try their hand at any career.
“It’s about women getting out there and having a go, and working in industries that have not necessarily been tapped into by women.
In the 12 months to December 2016, the Financy Women’s Index improved 4.1 points to 106.2 points, as the number of women occupying top-level corporate board positions rose and the gender pay gap fell to its lowest in five years.
The improvement offset flat growth in the number of women working full-time, as well as a moderation in the female participation rate, and a 2 percentage point widening of the superannuation gap.
What it also showed was that despite a historical tendency for more women to participate in industries with lower salaries, that appears to be slowly changing.
Female enrolments in courses such as information technology have grown 12 per cent on average each year for the past five years, almost on par with the 13 per cent average annual increase for men.
More women are also choosing to study management and commerce courses as well and at a faster pace than men.
The real estate, rental and hiring sector is another growth sector, with average quarterly growth of 2 per cent in the participation of women over the past five years, compared to 0.1 per cent growth among men.
What’s interesting is that real estate commissions, which are not included in gender pay gap data, act as one of the draw cards to the sector for many women.
“Commission-only offers the potential to significantly increase my income, but it takes about three to six months for your first commissions off settled sales to start coming through.”
For Anton, who had worked as a marketing executive on a six-figure salary for Accenture and then toyed with a move into fashion retail, the decision to enter real estate was partly prompted by fears of age discrimination in her former career in marketing.
She recognised that digital marketing was moving at such a rapid pace that she would always be feeling the pressure to prove herself all over again and keep up with younger “digital natives”.
“If I was in a marketing role at say $150,000 a year, I can’t help but think, in three years time, and another three years older, how much more employable will I be perceived as then?” Anton says.
“I enjoy working. In real estate I can continue to work hard without worrying about hitting that three year window.
“My career skills, together with my experience and maturity is valued in a different way in this industry, by both clients and colleagues.”
Anton, who works at Ray White Upper North Shore, feels she is starting to gain momentum with listings and on track to move to commission-only, which will give her the potential to replicate her previous salary.
Anton is among the thousands of older Australians having to reskill and rethink how an increasingly digitised workplace will affect their futures.