Networking can be a powerful tool, especially during a time of economic peril. Relationships matter whether generating new business or finding new work. One networking organization that aims to grow the connections between women in real estate finance is mPower, part of the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA). The group has allowed women to form bonds while also providing online access to professional growth resources and a members-only community.
“One of the things I’m really proud of is a lot of the women have gone back to their organizations over these years — mPower is six years old now — and started networking groups within their own organizations,” said Marcia Davies, MBA’s chief operating officer and founder of mPower. “It’s that ripple effect, right?”
“I know people are looking at how to keep their businesses profitable, what changes they need to make to their business model, but people are the most important assets.”
The organization will hold several in-person events at conferences this year, including at the MBA Annual Convention & Expo in Philadelphia this October, which coincides with the release of the McKinsey & Co. “Women in the Workplace” report. Davies spoke with Scotsman Guide about mPower and the need to invest in employees even in a time of economic uncertainty.
Are women in the mortgage industry more at risk than men in a down market?
I really haven’t heard that anecdotally or seen any data that suggests women are more impacted in a downturn than men. In fact, if there’s downsizing occurring, it’s usually done by job function.
Can you expand on that?
If your volumes are swelling, you’re going to need more underwriters, more salespeople, more loan officers, etc. When volumes slow down, that overhead is something you have to look at to rightsize your organization.
What jumped out at you from last year’s McKinsey report?
It goes into the broken rung. The broken rung is when you climb the corporate ladder, there seems to be a broken rung for women. Everybody starts out on a level playing field in these entry-level jobs, but something happens as they get increased responsibility and rise into management and leadership, where men end up getting more of those roles. So, we really need to pay attention to, is that happening in our organizations? And if so, why is that?
And that’s not amplified in a downturn?
I would think if there’s a broken rung, it certainly doesn’t help in a downturn to try to fix it. If the rung is still broken when things are good, I can only imagine in a downturn, it’s not going to make it better.
What are some of the gains that women have made in the mortgage industry in the past few years?
I have seen more women stepping up and, for lack of a better expression, leaning in, applying for bigger roles and getting them. I have seen women who’ve networked starting to do business together, who have never had the opportunity to connect and do business together. I see women championing women.
What needs to be done in the future?
I don’t think we can lose sight of how important it is to keep investing in our employees, and that’s male and female. I know people are looking at how to keep their businesses profitable, what changes they need to make to their business model, but people are the most important assets. We really can’t take our eye off the ball at not only creating opportunities but nurturing our employees and giving them the training and the support that they need so that they can continue to grow even in a downturn.
How do you help employees, especially younger mortgage originators, in a downturn?
I do think it is the responsibility of those of us who have been in the industry for a while to reach a hand down to some of the younger professionals and make sure we are mentoring them, we’re guiding them, we’re lifting them up and we’re giving them opportunity even in a down market to show what they can do.
What are your other thoughts or concerns?
My immediate concern is, how long is this downturn going to last? What will we see when we come out of it? Will employees have received the training and opportunity during the downturn where they feel like their careers are advancing? Or do they feel like they’ve stalled? ●