Women In Housing-2015

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Th e M Rep o RT | 11 Feature T hough women have been making strides in the working world for decades—even in the traditionally male-dominated mortgage and financial sectors—it seems they're just not as prevalent in higher-ranking positions as are their male counterparts. According to the United States Department of Labor, women make up a large portion of the na- tional workforce–47 percent, to be exact. But in leadership roles? The DOL says only 24 percent of all CEOs are women and, according to Catalyst, a research organiza- tion that aims to expand business opportunities for women, a mere 2 percent of those are CEOs at Fortune 500 companies. But this isn't just a general workforce trend. It also seems to carry through to the mortgage industry. Catalyst shows that only 22 percent of directors in the finance and insurance industries are female, and if you ask some of mortgage's highest ranking women, that dearth of females has been a common sight in the industry for years. Elsa Lewis, EVP of Default Sales & Operations at Williams & Williams, has spent nearly 30 years in the mortgage industry, and in her time, she said, most of her bosses and leaders have been male. "I've had some women in lead- ership roles over me through the years, but there have been more men by far," Lewis said. "They were probably 70 to 75 percent men and 20 to 25 percent women." Donna Corley, SVP Single- Family Division Chief Risk Officer at Freddie Mac, had a similar track record throughout her career. "I've only had one direct man- ager who was a female," Corley said. "I've had 13 bosses, and 12 of them have been men." Lewis said while there's no way to pinpoint a specific cause for this lack of female leadership in the industry, there may be a few factors at play. "Maybe the financial world is just more predominately men than women," Lewis said. "Maybe it's that women haven't fought for that place to be there, or maybe we're just used to men being in those roles." Regardless of the reason, how- ever, Lewis said there's definitely room for improvement. "There are some women in the mortgage industry," Lewis said, "but there is definitely a lot of room for women to move up and take positions in key leader- ship roles." Dana Dillard, EVP and chief customer officer at Nationstar Mortgage, said she believes there's room for change, too. "I wish there were more female leaders," Dillard said. "I do think as an industry where we're so represented by women at the front lines and not so represented by them in the board room, that it is something we have to really work toward improving." Where the Women Are D espite lacking representation in the board room, many of the industry's highest-ranking women say there are still plenty of females in the industry—you just have to know where to look. According to Angela Cheek, VP and counsel, Product Compliance at Ellie Mae, some areas of the industry actually have pretty high female representation. "In the compliance area, there are a lot of women," Cheek said. "In other areas of the mortgage industry, I think there are prob- ably fewer." Corley cited human resources, sales, legal, origination and under- writing as other sectors that tend to have more females in the ranks. Marcia Phillips, CEO at Guardian Mortgage Company, said that many women start in the front-lines—in operations, and other similar positions. "Traditionally, women in the mortgage industry rise up the ranks through the operational environ- ment, as processors, underwriters, administrators," Phillips said. "This was the case in my own career." But it seems this representation in compliance, origination and other front-line areas is many times where it stops. According to Lewis, although she's seen a number of women in origination, operations and middle-management positions in her time, that doesn't extend to the board room or into key decision-making roles very often. "I see more women in the second-tier management and more in operations than I see in the key leadership roles and decision- making roles," Lewis said. "That is more predominantly men." Corley mirrored her sentiment. "At least what I've seen at Freddie Mac is that we have fantastic diver- sity at the more associate level—at the junior levels," Corley said. "As you keep going up, it declines. And I think that's pretty universal. That tends to be a common trend." Bucking the Trend B ut not every mortgage-relat- ed company is dominated by males. In fact, there are a number of organizations that have relied heavily on female leadership for decades. Marcia Phillips, for example, is CEO at Guardian Mortgage— one of the few companies in the business to have a woman at the helm. But that's not where her company stops. In fact, Guardian also has a female EVP and a female CAO, too. In total, three quarters of Guardian's leadership team is made up of women. "Guardian has multiple women in leadership roles," Phillips said. "The women have as much op- portunity as the men to have a rewarding career." Lewis said her company, Williams & Williams, is blazing its own path in this regard, too. "We have a lot of women," Lewis said. "I just came from our senior team meeting, and it was probably 60 percent women, 40 percent men." "As scary as it can be to leave something that comes very easy to you and having to trying something new, that's really how you learn and you grow." —Donna Corley, SVP Single-Family Division Chief Risk Officer, Freddie Mac

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