J. Tony Thompson is founder and CEO of the National
Association of Minority Mortgage Bankers of America, an
organization dedicated to increasing the engagement of
women and minorities with the Mortgage Bankers Association at the local, state and national level. Thompson has
15-plus years of leading and building high-performance
sales teams. Currently, he is vice president of growth and
strategy for Silverton Mortgage, based in Atlanta. Reach
him at email@example.com.
We Need More Women Executives
The mortgage industry must work harder to address gender disparity
By J. Tony Thompson
Mortgage lending, historically, has been a male-driven industry. Men occupied the seats of power. Men ran the com- panies. Men originated the loans. It
stayed that way for years.
Now, however, a shift in the industry is underway.
More women are entering the lending arena. Women
are running companies. Federal legislation, such as
the Fair Housing Act, has empowered women to chart
their own path to homeownership.
That means it’s critical that mortgage companies
hire more female loan originators and provide them
a path to the executive ranks, given women have
a deeper understanding and can better address
the unique needs of the female borrowers who are
taking the housing market by storm. Unfortunately,
despite the increasing need for more female mortgage originators and executives, there’s still a lot of
progress to be made.
Women are sorely underrepresented in the mortgage
industry at the executive level in particular. While the
industry has made progress over the last few decades,
the leadership gap between men and women in mortgage finance is still quite wide.
Here’s why that’s problematic: Women play a critical role in homebuying today and drive the industry’s
purchasing trends. Data cited in the Harvard Business
Review shows that women make the purchase decisions for 91 percent of the homes sold in the U.S.
Single women, in particular, are a formidable force
in the housing industry, having outpaced single men
in purchasing homes for the last 35 years. In 2017,
for instance, 18 percent of homebuyers were single
women while just 7 percent were single men, according to the National Association of Realtors.
Plus, women are more likely than men to pay their
mortgages, even though they make less money, provide larger downpayments and, on average, receive
more costly mortgages than their male counterparts,
according to a 2016 study by the Urban Institute’s
Housing Finance Policy Center. Yet, among the companies selling these women their mortgages, only
2 percent have women CEOs, and just over 28 percent of women at those companies are executives
or senior-level managers, according to Mortgage
There are efforts to curb this troubling trend of a lack
of women leadership in the mortgage industry. The
National Association of Minority Mortgage Bankers
of America (NAMMBA) has partnered with the Mortgage Bankers Association’s mPower initiative to offer
women an outlet to discuss, explore and work to
resolve the inclusion issues they face in the industry.
During NAMMBA’s Connect conference this year,
women attendees were invited to take part in ForHer,
a women’s empowerment event where they heard
from some of the best and brightest women in the
industry, expanded their networks and learned about
the resources and tools to promote gender inclusion in
their respective workplaces.
Providing space for women to grow professionally is
critical. Still, more needs to be done. Companies must
take responsibility for encouraging gender equity on
their executive teams, if they hope to remain relevant
and relatable to consumers.
The payback from such efforts promises to be
beneficial. Another study published in the Harvard
Business Review shows that women executives out-
performed men in 12 of 16 competencies associated
with outstanding leadership. That includes traits tra-
ditionally considered male strengths, such as taking
initiative and driving results. A 2015 study from Quan-
topian, a Boston-based trading platform, showed
that Fortune 1,000 companies with women CEOs
performed three times better than S&P 500 compa-
nies led by men.
The takeaway from the Quantopian study: Women
are natural-born leaders who excel in the pilot’s
seat and are equipped to do much more than fill the
stereotypical role of nurturer. So, now that the problem is diagnosed, what’s the solution?
Here are three things mortgage companies can
do today to promote gender inclusion within their
1. Hire more women in leadership positions. Mortgage lenders should be proactive in recruiting and
retaining women in executive roles within their organizations. Lenders, take a look at your C-suite and
question its gender makeup. If you find it’s lacking a
suitable female presence, consider actively pursuing
qualified women candidates to fill open positions .
2. Create more opportunities for advancement.
In financial services, women often work lower-paid,
lower-skilled jobs. This crimps their efforts to move
up the corporate ladder because they’re relegated to
lower-level positions. Mortgage companies should
invest in creating more internal pathways to promotion for women who demonstrate exceptional
leadership skills and the desire to move up.
3. Develop mentorship programs. Women leaders
can help to develop more women leaders, whether
through example or mere proximity. Develop mentorship programs that allow women to learn from female
leadership and boost their confidence about pursuing
Women are the heartbeat of the mortgage business,
from the originators to the people running the companies and providing executive oversight. Lenders must
find the value in hiring women in all aspects of the
mortgage transaction process and invest in programs
and opportunities that will grow them into capable
leaders in the industry. ■
The mortgage industry
needs more female leadership
■ ■ Women play a major, growing role in the homebuying market.
■ ■ There is a shortage of women in leadership
positions at mortgage companies.
■ ■ Mortgage companies need to recruit more
female executives for existing openings.
■ ■ Mortgage companies should develop more
internal leadership pathways for women.
■ ■ More female-focused mentoring programs and
opportunities should be developed.
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