MReport May 2020

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16 | M R EP O RT COVER STORY S hirley Chisholm, the first African American woman elected to Congress, once said, "If they don't give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair." Diverse candidates are not just bringing the folding chair—they are setting up a picnic at the board- room table—with no intentions to leave. However, the road to diver- sity, inclusion, and representation has rarely been easily traversed. Executives from Eagle Home Mortgage, Mr. Cooper Group, and more spoke to MReport about the challenges they've faced, the suc- cess stories that resulted, and their experiences climbing the corporate ladder in today's mortgage and housing industries. Taking Notice A recent hearing by the House Financial Services Committee found that 58% of banking institu- tions were white in 2018—lower than the national average of 63%. While females make up 51% of the industry, the disparity is apparent in the boardroom—at the senior level, employees are 71% male and 81% white. Maxine Waters (D-California), Chairwoman of the Financial Services Committee, called January's hearing on diversity and inclusion amongst the nation's larg- est banks "historic and ground- breaking." "I believe we must mirror the world we want to live in … when representation and equity is an overarching priority in the banking industry, we can develop banks that out-innovate and outperform others and continue to move the needle within the industry," said Congresswoman Joyce Beatty (D- Ohio) during the hearing. Dana Dillard, EVP of Corporate Social Responsibility for Mr. Cooper Group, told MReport that while a workforce may be diverse, the turnover and opportunities among senior positions are limited, and creating change can be a chal- lenge. "There are ways to help increase diversity for these leadership roles. One way is as simple as posting open leadership positions to bring more awareness to these opportu- nities, and ideally a more diverse pool of candidates," Dillard said. "I also believe in panel interview- ing for leadership positions to help ensure there is a strong culture fit."'s leadership team, according to COO and GM Min Alexander, is making sure they do their best not only to recruit and hire but also to develop the best talent "without barriers" and outdated ways of thinking. "For us, diversity and inclusion, it's just saying, 'We want growth, we want different new innova- tive thinking, and we're open to different perspectives," Alexander said. "All businesses want the smartest, the brightest, the most creative talent. To get that type of talent pool, you have to see folks with different backgrounds, dif- ferent ways of thinking, different lifestyles, different ways that they were raised." Jane Mason, CEO, Clarifire, said the discussions surrounding diversity and inclusion within the industry are "definitely overdue" and didn't exist when she began her career. She said it is vital that industry leaders discuss struggles that people are having with accountability and the metrics reported during the Financial Services Committee's hearing. "Our companies are strug- gling with diversity and inclusion results as related to performance," Mason said. "One of the keys that I would offer today is that access to the data does change behaviors. Collectively, the more we, as an industry, talk about it, and the more we come up with metrics that are acceptable based on the gender ratios in the United States, the better off we're going to be." Mason recalled instances where she attended meetings and had people ask where the CEO was— when she was standing right in front of them. "My main experience was when I would walk in the room—there was an unintentional bias for cred- ibility. Not only am I a woman, I'm a small, woman-owned business," Mason said. "I'm an entrepreneur trying to get started. Our first three customers, which were very large, didn't see through a gender lens. They opened the doors and gave me the opportuni- ties to perform, which I've held high in my value set that I would never let them down." Mason has not forgotten those companies that opened doors for her, and she keeps a special reminder to them at Clarifire. "My theme song has always been Tom Petty's 'Won't Back Down,'" Mason said. "All of our conference rooms are named after Tom Petty songs. I kept that close, and I just kept going and deliver- ing. Deliver with confidence. If you make a mistake, admit it and move on." Laura Escobar, President of Eagle Home Mortgage, said the heightened awareness on the issue Claiming a Seat at the Table The road to the boardroom is not always an easy one for diverse candidates in the mortgage industry. Hear from leaders from within the industry what it took to get there, and what they are doing to pave the way for the next generation of executives. By Mike Albanese

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