Change is never easy, but it’s necessary. Historically, the financial-services industry has been male dominated, more so than some other businesses. Women in the mortgage industry have definitely faced challenges. Apparently, they still do.
As recent research indicates, the mortgage industry could greatly benefit from reimagining the mortgage experience and building on its growth. Supporting and helping to advance women is key to this success.
In the past few years, more research has been conducted on women in the financial-services industry. Facts and figures from these news and research reports reinforce what has been apparent to those who work in the industry every day. A few of these numbers stick out:
Only 17% of banking and insurance industry leaders expect to see a significant increase in the number of women in leadership roles in the next five years.
Women are dramatically outnumbered in senior leadership. Only about one in five C-suite leaders is a woman.
Only 33% of female and 58% of male financial-services leaders believe their organization is effective at promoting women into leadership positions.
These numbers, which are disappointing but not surprising, demonstrate a need for a strong leadership stance that supports women. They also point to a real opportunity for mortgage professionals to create positive change.
It is time that the mortgage industry develops smarter ways to create more opportunities for women. Here are a few ways to bring positive change and lead the way.
Embrace diversity. Diversity of thought and talent leads to better results. In fact, studies show diversity of perspectives isn’t just a good thing to do — it’s better for business. One recent study found that companies with more diverse management teams earned higher revenues than those with below average diversity.
Diversity of thought should be valued within each gender. Women aren’t all alike and not all women’s views of business are going to be alike. Successful companies foster a culture of openness to all diverse perspectives that employees bring to the table, and they also place value on these diverse opinions. That means treating women like individuals as opposed to a group with a singular opinion.
Companies should not only want a culture of strong women who support other women, but also strong men who support women. For significant and sustainable positive change to occur, men and women must participate.
One way to grow gender diversity is to scout for talent in new and unusual places. Companies can do this by engaging in smart new partnerships to boost diversity and recruit employees at all levels. If your company has an internship program, for instance, consider having a mid-career reentry program running side by side, with parameters that match company-specific needs.
Not only does this allow companies to effectively tap into the high-caliber talent pool of people relaunching their careers, but it also demonstrates a commitment to diversity and inclusion. The program also can be broadened for people who are transitioning from nontraditional careers, such as veterans, military spouses, retirees and millennials outside of the mortgage industry.
Another way to do this is to encourage women to connect and network. No one succeeds on their own. Developing valuable relationships, such as with a mentor or a sponsor, are key to helping women get ahead in the workplace. These shared experiences can help women who are new to a company understand such things as work-life balance, the company culture and growth opportunities. And they can help women at companies for longer periods of time continue to succeed and advance to the next level.
One thing is for sure: Women must make choices about how to spend their time, and that’s certainly worth talking about with mentors or peers. Some may be driven by economic decisions, while others will be driven by professional ambitions and personal considerations. Setting the right table and expectations for yourself and those around you is important.
Finally, mortgage companies can lead by example and provide a hand up the ladder. Company-sponsored professional development and training programs will ensure that women have opportunities in new areas so they can develop their skills, thrive and grow. As women leaders manage different functions, they will become good role models. As the next generation sees these women succeeding, they will follow their lead and take on different functions and capacities, too. They’ll see it’s possible.
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Thankfully, the landscape is changing for the better as more companies embrace new approaches to supporting women. The mortgage industry should continue to do more to make the workplace as equal a playing field and as full of opportunities for women as possible. It will only make the mortgage industry better. The time has come for all of us to showcase women leaders — raising visibility, supporting inclusion and promoting greater success across our workplaces.