Women in the mortgage industry are tough as nails. Outnumbered and faced with unique workplace challenges, these women work hard to be seen, represented and achieve success. Each year, they hold their own in Scotsman Guide’s Top Originators rankings, competing and succeeding alongside men in an industry that was, for a long time, a boys club.
MBA networking organization galvanizes women
At a Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) conference in 2015, Marcia Davies decided to host a networking luncheon for women. She had seen women continually outnumbered by men in the industry, and she noticed that the women at MBA conferences didn’t seem to know each other. A luncheon, she thought, would be a great way for these women to meet, network and socialize.
“I invited 75 women and 150 showed up,” Davies said. “That was my inkling that I was onto something.”
That initial meeting turned into a regular event, then blossomed into mPower (MBA Promoting Opportunities for Women to Extend their Reach), the trade group’s resource for the empowerment of women in real estate finance. More than 30,000 women have engaged with mPower over the past seven years, Davies said.
The group offers regular networking events at MBA conferences, an annual full-day women’s summit and a free online platform with thousands of users. With a social networking aspect, mPower also offers a resource library, webinars and a monthly video interview series with guests like FIFA Women’s World Cup champion Carli Lloyd and legendary actress Rita Moreno.
Emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, Davies is excited for a return to in-person events. At the mPower summit this past October, 400 women attended. “It was fabulous,” Davies said. “A lot of these women stayed connected virtually … but nothing is better than being there together, that energy and that human connection.”
Davies said that she’s seen a lot of positive change in the industry since 2015 and that companies now understand that investment in women is valuable.
“I think it’s gotten better,” she said. “I see more women moving up the ladder. I see organizations talking openly about having more women at the table. … Unfortunately, the issues that women face are not solving as quickly as we’d like, so there’s always a lot to talk about.”
Chief operating officer, MBA
Women gain leadership roles but remain underrepresented
Women make up a majority of the real estate sector workforce — 51.6% in 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But only about 41% of mortgage originators are women, according to data from the Stratmor Group in 2019, the most recent year available.
More recent research from career resources website Zippia indicates that while 44% of loan officers are women, only 32% of brokers are women. Zippia also reported that female loan officers make only 88 cents for every dollar men in the same position earn. Female brokers make 90 cents on the dollar of their male counterparts.
McKinsey & Co.’s 2021 Women in the Workplace report found that the representation of women and women of color in the financial-services industry has increased across all career stages above entry level since 2018. Even with this increase, however, they are still underrepresented in leadership roles, which is especially true for women of color.
While women make up 52% of the entry-level jobs in financial services, representation declines at each step up the ladder. For women of color, this gap is the most glaring as 21% of entry-level employees in the study were women of color, but only 4% of C-suite executives were. For comparison, white women comprised 31% of entry-level positions and 23% of C-suite positions.
Single women continue to outpace men as homebuyers
Single women purchased 19% of all homes in 2021, making them the largest group of homebuyers after married couples, who represented 60% of the market. Single men and unmarried couples each accounted for 9% of home purchases last year, according to data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR).
Although single women buy more homes than single men, they reported making more financial sacrifices to do so, NAR reported. While 42% of men said they made no financial sacrifices to afford a home, only 32% of women did so. On average, the women surveyed had lower incomes than men, bought less expensive homes, purchased homes later in life and were more likely than men to purchase homes due to family obligations. Single women reported higher rates of having children living with them, purchased more multigenerational homes (for siblings, adult children or parents) and reported a greater desire to live close to family and friends.
Despite single women accounting for nearly one in five homebuyers, many single women believe that homeownership is out of their reach. According to a 2021 Freddie Mac survey of single women, 60% said they did not believe they would ever be able to afford a home. Eight in 10 respondents indicated that they did not have enough money saved for a downpayment or closing costs.
Despite burnout, women make workplace strides
McKinsey & Co.’s most recent Women in the Workplace report found that while representation of women is improving across all levels of the corporate world, women are increasingly stressed in their jobs. Nearly half of senior-level women identified as feeling frequently burned out while one in three women surveyed said they had considered leaving the workforce or scaling back their careers.
Still, 59% of women in financial services reported receiving increased support in 2021. This is a sign that companies are taking note of burnout and work-related challenges.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, a major cultural shift has happened across the corporate world, and an overwhelming majority of companies have reported new priorities tied to employee wellness and improved diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). But women also are leading the charge on these workplace initiatives and spending more time than men to provide support for their team members. Senior-level women are twice as likely as senior-level men to dedicate weekly time to DEI projects and initiatives.
Women continue to face a “broken rung” in the corporate ladder as only 86 women are promoted to a management role for every 100 men. But there are signs of progress: Across the financial-services sector, the share of women at the C-suite level grew from 18% in 2018 to 27% in 2021.