New York Law Updated With Gender-Neutral Pronouns For Realtors

Originally published in patch.com on August 18, 2022.

More than 65 percent of women in the Empire State and across the country are realtors, according to statewide and nationwide data, but one might probably not know that because of outdated pronouns that often refer to people in the industry as real estate salesmen.

The average realtor is a college-educated white woman in her mid-50s, who made a median gross income in the $71,000 to 85,000 range and had more than 16 years of experience in the industry, according to data from the New York State Association of Realtors and the National Association of Realtors.

To reflect that, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a bill Thursday that would update New York law, which will refer to people in the industry with gender-neutral pronouns such as real estate salespeople or a salesperson.

The bill that Hochul signed into law was introduced by state Sen. Anna Kaplan, who represents part of or all of Great Neck and was sponsored by Assemblyman Danny O’Donnell of Morningside in the state’s lower chamber.

Prior to the new law, the underlying section of the state's real property law, which regulates the real estate brokerage and sales professions and was written in 1927, included 85 references to "salesmen" and dozens of instances of gendered pronouns like he, him, and his.The law only included references to a "salesperson" in two places, and made no references to "saleswomen,” according to Kaplan’s Office.

"Jobs have no gender, but unfortunately, many of our state's laws still use gendered language when discussing professions that are practiced by people of all genders,” Kaplan said in a statement. “It's important that we update these antiquated sections of the law to reflect our New York values and send a message that everyone, regardless of gender, should be able to pursue their passions."

O’Donnell shared Kaplan’s sentiments.

"People of all professions deserve to feel valued, but gendered language in our real property law fails to adequately recognize the contributions of women and non-binary New Yorkers,” O’Donnell said in a prepared statement. “We want our workplaces to reflect the diversity of New York, and the best way to achieve that goal is by making sure all realtors feel that they belong and the profession is accessible.”

The measure will change all instances of the word salesman to salesperson and remove gendered language from by removing references to his or her in favor of their, and change himself to themselves, as well as appropriate changes in variations to those words, according to legislation S.536a/A.8077a.