Refashioning the Pink Collar


It’s on so many of our hiring documents now that we hardly think about it: “This employer does not discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” Equal employment has only been law for fifty-odd years. In that time, women have continued to make strides in a business world that once only belonged to men. But workplace gender equality still has a long way to go overall. To that point, many of us are probably familiar with gendered professional challenges like the glass ceiling, the wage gap, or even sexual harassment. But what about the pink collar?

About the Pink Collar

In 1977, Louise Kapp Howe added “pink collar” to common workplace jargon. A prominent social reformist and feminist writer, Howe categorized pink-collar jobs of her day as low-skill, low-wage, or low-mobility positions and that were usually held by women. The term was intended as a counterpart to blue-collar manufacturing jobs that were traditionally male-dominated.

Today, most of us have “blue collar” or “white collar” fully in our vocabulary. Yet, “pink collar” remains on the fringes. Howe’s pink-collar workers would have held occupations like teacher, nurse, or secretary. However, its definition continues to evolve for the modern workplace and higher education levels. Though some social columnists have called for an end to the label, the pink collar is still associated with roles dominated by women. The modern pink collar especially includes jobs that emphasize soft skills like communication and customer service.

Wearing a Pink Collar in Title Insurance

The pink collar is particularly visible in the land title industry. In 2017, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics found that women accounted for 74% of all insurance clerks, claims professionals, underwriters, and paralegals.

If you look over your own company’s title curative, examiner, paralegal, or administrative teams, there’s a good chance you’ll find a similar distribution. While women make up a significant majority of the production force across the title and settlement sectors, they earned less than the median wage, on average, in each key position.

But why talk about gender in the title and appraisal space at this particular moment?

This January is striking many of us as an especially important occasion with the turn of the new decade. Coincidentally, 2020 is also the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment, securing women’s right to vote. Women’s rights have continued to advance in the century since, but this momentous milestone can also serve as reminder not to take that progress for granted. As January hiring picks up, it seems only fitting to commemorate a century of women’s suffrage by thinking about how we employ women in title insurance and adjacent industries. Afterall, women account for well over half of the frontline professionals who make sure that our most valuable asset—our property—actually belongs to us.

Gender Equality During Hiring and Beyond

Thanks to the Equal Employment Opportunity Act, gender equality in the workplace is standard policy. However, it never hurts to continue to evaluate our workplace culture so that this policy is also our practice. Some ways to continue to promote a more inclusive workplace are to:

1. Be Aware of Gendered Language in Job Descriptions.

The language we use in job descriptions can subconsciously play to gender stereotypes. When we ask for “strong” leaders, “aggressive” salespeople, or to “dominate” a market, we’re calling on masculine-coded language to find our ideal candidates. Similarly, language that calls on applicants to collaborate, assist, or enact caring can appeal to traditionally-feminine expectations for nurturing and cooperation. Gendered language is often so natural in our daily and business vocabularies that we hardly think about it when we use it. But without even saying words like “woman” or “she,” we can alienate exceptional potential applicants—both male and female. Having a diverse group of proofreaders can help ensure that the language on position descriptions and official documents is inclusive for everyone in the candidate pool.

2. Offer Transparent Leave Policies.

Expectations for women to play traditional roles as caretakers and as mothers continue to impact them in the workplace. Assumptions that women will be more devoted to their families than their jobs impact them during and beyond the hiring process. One way to amend this trend is to reshape how we present absences at work. During hiring, we can strive to offer transparency about vacations, personal time, paid leave, and unpaid leave. We can offer all employees flexible work schedules and remote opportunities where those benefits are practical.

Additionally, Glassdoor found that Americans only use half of their vacation time, partly due to a “fear” of falling behind. So, as well as offering reasonable flexibility, we can also create a work culture that makes it acceptable to use that leave. In fact, universal parental leave has been shown to benefit women and men alike. Moreover, a push for work-life balance can improve mental health and increase workplace satisfaction.

3. Watch for Women in Leadership.

The door for women in leadership positions has been opening wider and wider. In our sector, the American Land Title Association (ALTA) stands as an example for equality in its upper ranks. Increasingly, the organization has seen female presidents elected to the Board of Governors, and four of ALTA’s six executives are women. Having qualified women in leadership positions can be one of many signals to female candidates and workers across the board that a company values women’s mobility. This doesn’t necessarily require a company’s total restructuring. Including female employees in interview processes, policy-making decisions, and even in planning teambuilding events can also be meaningful ways to show current and potential women employees that the company welcomes their voices.

4. Commit to Constantly Assessing Equality.

Perhaps most importantly, we should strive to foster a workplace culture that is committed to equality. Some ways to consciously and pro-actively promote a gender-equal workplace include:

  1. Combating sexual harassment by continuing to offer HR the resources and authority it needs
  2. Evaluating company pay practices to constantly ensure that we aren’t unintentionally contributing to the wage gap
  3. Offering gender sensitivity training to all employees in order to promote mutual understanding
  4. Offering resources for women to find solidarity with their peers around the real estate closing table.

Organizations like CREW Network for the global advancement of women in commercial real estate and the Women’s Council of Realtors are just two examples of resources for outreach and professional development in real estate-adjacent industries.

The bottom-line is that gender equality in the workplace continues to be a difficult and often-controversial issue. Women’s equality is only one particular piece of this puzzle. The experience of men in pink-collar roles and the significance of gender and sexual identities add layers of complication. Yet, as we enter another century of women’s rights, continuing to evaluate our hiring processes and workplace cultures can only benefit all of us—no matter what color of collar we wear.