Virtually every industry in the modern economy has been subject to intense scrutiny over its approach to gender equity and inclusivity. The mortgage industry is no different.
While mortgage lending may not be the sector of the economy that immediately springs to mind when the issue of gender equity is raised — Industries such as art, entertainment, media, and politics tend to be more subject to cultural and political trends — a growing chorus of voices is demanding change in mortgage lending. Specifically, they’re calling for an increase of women in leadership roles, along with accountability for men who reportedly abuse their authority within the industry.
“It is imperative for all of us to focus on inclusion at every level,” says Laura Brandao, the president of American Financial Resources, Inc. Writing in National Mortgage Professional, Brandao argues that though mortgage lending has made “steps in a positive direction toward gender parity,” the industry “can–and should–do so much more.”
Brandao makes a familiar argument regularly advanced by advocates in many industries: That one of the strongest barriers to women’s advancement is “the first step up to manager” from which further promotions would follow. “Fixing this ‘broken rung’ may be a key to achieving equality,” she argues.
One argument advanced by many advocates is that greater gender parity will lead to a greater variety of professional approaches in the industry. “Different backgrounds – whether that is gender, race, ethnicity or anything else – gives a diversity of thought,” Rocket Pro TPO Divisional Vice President Keri Stichler told Housing Wire in June. “It brings new perspectives and new ways of thinking about things.”
The proposition that women think differently—and thus contribute “new perspectives”—has long been a claim used by activists seeking to increase female representation in various industries. More popular as of late has been the demand that numerous sectors of the economy—including mortgage lending—need to better punish toxic behavior by male leadership in order to make working environments more welcoming to women.
That’s been a prominent call by advocates in the lending industry since last year, when Association of Independent Mortgage Experts CEO Anthony Casa was revealed to have sent profoundly sexual and crude messages to a rival executive about the latter’s wife.
Courtney Mattison, the operations director for Taxpayers Protection Alliance, referenced this debacle in an essay at Mortgage Professional America this week. Casa, Mattison noted, eventually left AIME but “continues to work in the mortgage industry and even started his own brokerage in Philadelphia.”
Companies “must fire or force out shameless misogynists,” she argued. “The mortgage industry must weed out the bad apples from their ranks, not merely allow them to shift around.” She also pointed to industry moves like Rocket TPO’s sponsorship of the “first all-female team at Indianapolis 500.”
Whether or not true gender parity is practically attainable, activists still have a long way to go: Data indicate that less than a third of mortgage brokers are women (a higher percentage of loan officers are women). Advocates, of course, are not likely to cease calls for more parity, particularly as the MeToo movement continues and conversations around gender and representation remain a staple part of American culture.
“A first step is awareness,” Stichler told HousingWire. “Nothing can be done if you don’t talk about it.”