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Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Glennda Baker: Think you have a drinking problem? You probably do

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It’s no secret that real estate agents drink. Turn to TikTok, Instagram, or even content within our own industry, and you’ll find myriad representations of real estate agents drinking, usually depicted as some form of a drunk Realtor Karen.

Drinking is often baked into social events, broker opens, open houses, networking events, award ceremonies and conferences because event planners know agents won’t come if there are no drinks.

Unfortunately, while we talk about — and do a lot of — drinking in real estate, we don’t talk enough about the dangers of alcohol, especially for women, who in addition to having to worry about someone slipping something in their drink, now have to worry about health concerns that their male colleagues are less likely to incur.

New research from the National Library of Medicine shows that American women are drinking more than ever. Even small amounts of drinking cause irreversible harm to women, including higher risks of cancer, strokes and liver disease when compared to men’s consumption of alcohol.

One woman who is talking about the problem is Glennda Baker — a top-producing agent, social media influencer and co-host of the Glitter and Gay podcast. Baker has openly shared her personal story of addiction and choosing sobriety on social media.

As we begin a new year and thus a “Dry January” for many, Inman sat down with Baker to hear her thoughts on the research, the industry and her personal journey.

Getting real with Glennda Baker

In November 2023, Baker posted on her social channels about slipping out of sobriety after eight years. Baker is well known for her sweet and savvy approach to selling real estate, and her branding is all about leaning into your most authentic self.

We reached out to her to ask if she was willing to share more of her thoughts about how drinking impacts women in our industry, and she graciously agreed.

Here is some of our conversation, edited for clarity and style:

What kind of response have you received from your audience about your social media post talking about your sobriety struggles?

Baker: Many people told me I should take down my post. That people didn’t want to see that. That the post made me look unprofessional.

I posted my first story about my drinking on Nov. 29, 2016. Since then, I’ve had hundreds of real estate agents text me, call me, DM me, stop me at events and say, “You’re the reason I stopped drinking. Your story inspired me. I know I have a problem.”

I would love to see more of us (women real estate agents) not only supporting each other as women but supporting each other to be more healthy in real estate.

Why do you think women drink?

Baker: So women drink for very different reasons than men and that is to cope, to be comfortable, and to be cool. And that is why we want to fit in; we want to be part of the group. And you know, drinking takes the edge off; you’re not just selling real estate. Most of the time, as a woman, you’ve typically got a family at home or kids at home; you are probably running the household.

You’re definitely making sure everybody’s getting where they’re supposed to be when they’re supposed to be there. And to be all those things to all of these people: your buyers, sellers, spouse, and kids. It’s a lot, and you always feel like you’re falling short.

To cope with that, women say, “I’m going to have a glass of wine at night,” and one glass turns into one bottle, into two bottles, and one night can easily turn into every night.

Have you ever felt pressured to drink or uncomfortable at agent events because of the culture of social drinking that is pushed in our industry?

Baker: Yes. Every networking event is at cocktail hour. Every broker’s open seems to be Muffins and Mimosa or Champagne Brunch Broker’s Opens. Everything is very alcohol-themed. Our team even went through an era where we did cupcake and champagne open houses.

There is this underlying current at every event that you go to every industry event there. I have yet to see any mocktail real estate events at larger venues.

There’s a lot of peer pressure. I feel like sometimes people get personally offended if you don’t participate. They assume you’re no fun. When you try to explain it (why you don’t drink), it turns down this whole rabbit hole. You shouldn’t have to explain it. It should be: “No, I’m not. I’m not participating in that.” You shouldn’t have to defend yourself or explain yourself at all.

The thing that blows my mind is, how many agents have negotiated a contract drunk? How many times have you shown a house buzzed? How often have you been to a broker open and had two, three, four glasses of champagne or wine?

The research shows 5 percent of agents have a problem. I would tell you that out of the thousands of people that I have spoken with, people are struggling.

Q: How can we help support people with sobriety, especially when it’s challenging for everyone to be comfortable talking about it?

Baker: I have a podcast, Glitter and Gay, that I co-host with Tyler Whitman, who is also sober.

Tyler and I both talk about a lot, being there for people to hear their story, not having judgment. And, and also, making it cool to be sober.

One thing that’s really important to me is [being] sober-curious … So for Tyler and I, we’ve both been very open to people calling us and DMing us and texting with us, and pointing them in the right direction for wherever they fall, whether it’s a lifestyle decision or whether it’s truly some sort of addiction or some problem like that.

How do you know if you might have a problem with drinking?

Baker: If you think you have a problem, you probably have a problem. I think that many real estate agents and women, in general, think that they can fix it, like they think they can fix everybody else. Therefore, they think they can fix themselves.

I would say, if you think that you have a problem, you probably do … Don’t be shamed into silence. I feel like that is the key to getting help. Women have so much pressure (on social media) for their posts to be perfect —  and it’s not reality.

We need to create the message that you shouldn’t be stuck in this problem alone, where you can’t get yourself help, and where you’re afraid to reach out for help.

And now, the research

As with any studies, please remember that these studies are samples of populations.

Here are the recent stats:

  • Women are drinking 84 percent more than they were 10 years ago.
  • The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has shared new studies that demonstrate women who consume about one drink per day have a 5 percent to 9 percent higher chance of developing breast cancer than women who do not drink at all. That risk increases for every additional drink they have per day.
  • Compared to women who don’t drink at all, women who have three alcoholic drinks per week have a 15 percent higher risk of breast cancer. Experts estimate that the risk of breast cancer goes up another 10 percent for each additional drink women regularly have each day.
  • Women drink to cope with stress, not necessarily to celebrate
  •  The American Psychological Association surveyed women and found that this is one of the most stressful times to be a woman in history, citing increased family responsibilities, the pressure to be excellent, and the pressure to advance in careers.
  • According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, 5 percent of real estate agents have a serious drinking problem.
  • Women are more likely to have their drinks spiked. Drink spiking can be linked to crimes such as sexual assault and robbery. In these situations, the offender may spike someone’s drink to lower their defenses and make it easier to commit a crime against them. Estimates suggest that one-third of drink-spiking incidents are associated with sexual attacks.
  • Recently, The New York Times reported five women from eXp who claimed that the out-of-control drinking culture at social events made them vulnerable to two male predator agents, and the franchise at large ignored their complaints.
  • Real estate has consistently been ranked as one of the most stressful professions in our country, and Alcohol.org reports that those working in the industry (agents, insurance and finance) remain within the top 10 professions that have significant alcohol abuse tendencies.

How society laughs it off

The Alcohol Resource Guide says that pop culture has glorified alcohol use and that has led to an increase in very dangerous drinking habits.

Because the majority of society says it’s the most socially accepted way to deal with stress, it’s a regular trope to see a middle-aged woman frazzled, sassy, and with a glass of wine. Hollywood and mainstream culture have easily created the character of the drunk “Karen.”

As Baker noted, when trying to fit into societal norms, managing a household, and running a business where every event offers alcohol, and events are part of the gig, it’s tough to say no to a glass of anything to take the edge off of a stressful day.

This trope is harmful to women and their careers. Unfortunately, the rise of the popularity of meme accounts that create content to entertain agents has also created a vast bank of content that shows consumers just how unprofessional agents in our industry can get.

Posting ridiculous content about how stressed out you are and how much you need to drink to cope with your job isn’t a contest you want to win.

“I’m offended by it, not only because I’m a real estate agent, but I think you can find a lot of comedic relief about women of a certain age in mainstream culture, whether it’s a real estate agent or not. However, very commonly, it’s Karen, the drunk real estate agent. What makes my head spin around is when another real estate agent creates the persona. If you are an agent, what’s the purpose of that? Why dog your own industry?” — Glennda Baker

Wrapping up

Being a woman in a stressful profession means you must advocate for yourself every day, and it’s exhausting. Now is the perfect time to create a space for women to comfortably discuss drinking habits without judgment.

Let’s kick the trope of drunk Realtor Karen to the curb in 2024 and prioritize reducing stress in our lives. You don’t have to do it all, and it’s time to choose better coping methods. You shouldn’t have to drink to cope with the stress in your life. Let’s talk about real solutions instead of pouring our hearts out instead.

Rachael Hite is a former agent, a business development specialist, fair housing advocate, copy editor, and is currently perfecting her long game selling homes in a retirement community in Northern Virginia. You can connect with her about life, marketing, and business on Instagram.

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