Residential Magazine

Charmaine Brown, Mortgage Bankers Association

Diversity is about meeting the needs of a changing world

By Jim Davis

Late last year, the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) created a director of diversity and inclusion post to help its members and the entirety of the real estate finance industry navigate a changing world. The MBA tapped industry veteran Charmaine Brown to take on this role.

“This is a new position at the MBA, but the work is not new,” Brown said. “The MBA has been on its diversity and inclusion journey for quite some time.”Brown noted having worked closely with the MBA during her time at Fannie Mae. She spoke to Scotsman Guide about her new job, what she hopes to accomplish, and why diversity and inclusion matter for the mortgage industry.

What attracted you to this job and what are the biggest challenges?

This is an organization whose mission and purpose very much aligns with my own values. And to be able to leverage my experience in this space and work with organizations that I’ve built relationships with was just an incredible opportunity.

We have five generations in the workforce. We know the demographic disruptors that are taking place. … We’re also now having conversations about equity and systemic issues that the new workforce expects business leaders to take a position on.

What are the opportunities that you see?

When we talk about inclusion, it’s about creating an environment of a sense of belonging. When you’re actually in that situation, where you have to lean into discomfort and where things may be a little more ambiguous than you’d like for them to be, it’s a lot harder.

We know the business case for diversity, equity and inclusion, the McKinsey study that talks about (greater profitability at companies with more diverse gender and ethnic leadership). The opportunities are to embrace the change, lean into discomfort, and leverage your great diversity to be more innovative and more competitive than ever.

What can MBA do to address the homeownership gap between people of color and whites?

The MBA is actually already doing a lot of work in this space in Memphis and Columbus, Ohio, where we’re actually going into the communities and bringing our members and nonprofits together, looking to partner to address really tough issues of access to credit and payment, and all of those things with minority and historically underserved populations. We also have a career component.

How can the mortgage industry attract more people of color?

You can’t be what you can’t see. And I can’t stress that enough. If you’re not even aware of careers in this industry, you’re not going look at it as a career path. So, it’s important to get into communities, and partner with organizations and institutions — for example, like HBCUs, historically black colleges and universities. We have got to make sure that these historically marginalized, underserved communities are aware of career opportunities, and mentor and build that pipeline.

We have five generations in the workforce. We know the demographic disruptors that are taking place.”

Do you run into skepticism?

I have found there are people who might never believe that diversity, equity and inclusion matter. But I have found business leaders who are looking at what is happening, especially with demographics. You know where your future talent pool is coming from, where your market is going. It’s not about finding and fixing people. It’s about helping you to understand what you need to do to compete in today’s economy and into the future.

When you turn this job over to someone else, how will you measure yourself as successful?

My job is also to make sure that our members have what they need. I’ve got to make sure that they can meet the market where the market is. Are we attracting more talent? Are we retaining more talent from where we see the gaps today? Of course, we definitely want to see improvement on the homeownership gap. That’s not going to be an easy fix, but I believe we can fix it.

If I leave you with one thing, it is to remember that diversity, equity and inclusion is a competency-based discipline. That’s what we’re talking about, being effective with all populations. ●


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