For the first time in its 113-year history, the Real Estate Board of New York, the industry’s most powerful lobby and one of the city’s few remaining old boys’ clubs, will hand over its chairmanship to a member of—egad!—the opposite sex.

The board’s executive committee on Sept. 8 officially named Mary Ann Tighe, CEO of the New York tri-state region for CB Richard Ellis, the city’s largest commercial real estate firm, chairman of the board. Her term will begin on Jan. 1.

The former chairmen selected Ms. Tighe for the position in a process that began this spring. The 35-member executive committee that formally approved her on Tuesday (only six of whom are women) includes boldface real estate names like Bill Rudin, Donald Zucker, Sandy Lindenbaum, Lenny Litwin, Douglas Durst, Stephen Green, Larry Gluck, Bob Knakal, Peter Kalikow, Veronica Hackett, Jon Mechanic, Howard Milstein and Rob Speyer.

Ms. Tighe, in other words, is something of a change of pace. Which makes her feel good. Or, as she put it during a telephone conversation from her home in the Hamptons: “Really cool, to tell you the truth.”

It’s certainly something she said she “never, never in a million years” saw coming when she started in the business at Edward S. Gordon in 1984, a time when, much as it may strain credulity, the industry was even more single-gendered and monochromatic.

“My first year and a half, I wasn’t even sure I would make it to the next year and a half,” Ms. Tighe said.

The fact that it’s taken 113 years for a woman to head up the 12,000-member association is itself nothing more than a reflection of the state of the industry that it represents, said Steve Spinola, its president.

“People have said to me, ‘We have to get more women,’ and I’m saying, the industry is what it is,” Mr. Spinola said. “If you look at the makeup of the industry, the industry is male-dominated. That’s what it is. If you go to my banquet, people have said it’s predominately male. But over the last decade, we’re seeing more and more women at the banquet, which is reflective of the industry changing.”

Indeed, when Mr. Spinola first began working at the board 23 years ago, there were zero women on the executive committee.

For the record, these annual REBNY galas to which Mr. Spinola was referring are not just notoriously white-male. The attendees are also legendarily rude. The real estate men, so busy glad-handing and dealmaking, pay little attention to the speakers on the dais. Mr. Spinola, in fact, spends much of the dinner leaning into the microphone and shushing the chattering penguins.