Residential Magazine

Untapped Potential at the Top

There needs to be an industrywide push for more female leadership

By Laura Brandao

Did you know that while women comprise roughly half of entry-level mortgage jobs, they account for less than 20% of executive-level jobs at U.S. mortgage, banking and insurance companies? Similarly, while more than 65% of all Realtors are women, females account for only 38% of the nation’s managing real estate brokers.

Reflecting on these statistics shortly after the end of Women’s History Month in March seems striking. For an industry that offers countless positions for women at the entry level, why aren’t more able to climb the ladder in the mortgage world?
Across all industries, research shows that women have what it takes to guide companies through a crisis — such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic — and often perform better under pressure due to strong relational bonds, learning agility, communication styles and collaborative abilities. So, why aren’t more female leaders in the mortgage arena?

Career puzzle

Take, for example, a recent discussion with a group of female students at an East Coast university. Despite being highly motivated leaders on their campus, many of these young women still had doubts and fears about entering the workforce in the coming years.
These future professionals have specific priorities when it comes to career fulfillment. And it’s noteworthy that the mortgage industry checks many or all of these boxes. These college students had many pressing questions and goals in regard to their career paths, which are explored below. Today’s mortgage company executives should engage these prized assets and start building the industry’s next generation of business leaders.
  • “I want to make a difference.” It used to be all about the paycheck, but today’s young female professionals are all about purpose. They want to find a job that makes a positive impact on the world. Mortgages aren’t always associated with mission-driven work, but the reality is that the real estate finance industry is all about changing lives by literally putting roofs over people’s heads — in many cases, making homeownership a reality for families, seniors and others who never thought it possible. It’s truly rewarding to have a client tell you that you’ve enabled them to give their family a home and a future for years to come.
  • “I want to have a career and a family.” Mortgage careers are among the most flexible in all employment sectors. Long before COVID-19, mortgage professionals of all types were working from home, making their own hours and successfully balancing family life alongside flourishing careers. And it’s an industry with huge income potential, which creates incredible opportunities for women to support their growing families both emotionally and financially.
  • “The future of work is not in a 9-to-5 office job.” The mortgage industry, in general, couldn’t agree more. Some would venture to say that mortgage companies have been ahead of this trend for decades. Mortgage careers are pandemic-proof. Some of our most successful executives work from anywhere, make their own hours and have completely abolished the concept of a commute.
All of this makes a career in the mortgage industry sound like a perfect fit. So, again, where are all the women?

Deep connections

There’s so much more that the industry can do to communicate the benefits of a career in the mortgage business to the many young women about to embark on their professional journeys — not to mention the thousands of female executives in other industries who may be looking for a career change. Thousands of people became Realtors during the pandemic and it’s past time for the mortgage industry to get the same boost. But how?
The first way is through existing networks. The mortgage industry has a number of highly valuable professional organizations, many of which are being driven by strong female leaders. Some of the resources for women in the mortgage industry include the mPower group through the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), local MBA women’s committees, the National Association of Minority Mortgage Bankers of America, the Association of Independent Mortgage Experts, the Women’s Mortgage Network, Women With Vision, and High Heels in High Places. For new professionals, these organizations create strong opportunities for networking and creating deep connections to drive career growth and success.
A second method is greater education. There are many ways for the industry’s future female leaders to continually expand their knowledge about the industry and build fulfilling careers that truly make a difference. Knowledge is power — and that’s the truth.
From classes that focus on different loan options within the industry (such as manufactured housing, Veterans Affairs loans, renovation mortgages and downpayment assistance) to becoming a certified mortgage advisor or a certified mortgage banker, the industry is rich in professional development opportunities. And in true alignment with flexible, pandemic-proof and family-friendly approaches, many training webinars are available on demand.●


  • Laura Brandao

    Laura Brandao is chief growth officer and a partner at mortgage lender EPM, where she oversees operations and business development. She also serves as the CEO of Lighthouse Lending Capital, a new division of EPM that specializes in unique loan programs and private lending. She serves with several organizations dedicated to lifting others, including as chair of the visionary program for the National Association of Minority Mortgage Bankers of America (NAMMBA) and on the Mortgage Bankers Association of New Jersey’s women's committee.

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