Women In Housing-2015

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12 | Th e M Rep o RT feature Though there are some men in key roles at Williams & Williams, Lewis said a large portion of her organization is female—and she hopes other companies in the industry will follow suit. Mentorship is the Key D espite these anomalies, there's still work to be done, and according to the industry's leading ladies, there's no miracle cure for improving female representation in the board room. Most, how- ever, believe that existing women leaders can help the cause, both by providing a strong example and by mentoring women in lower-ranking roles. "I try to be supportive of my women peers and, of course, those who are coming up the ranks," Dillard said. "As a woman leader it doesn't take you long to realize that we need to be supportive of each other and to look for oppor- tunities to promote the good work of our female peer group." Lewis agreed. "I think there's some responsibility on women in key positions to help foster and mentor other women--to bring them in," she said. Cheek says she specifically encourages her fellow women to get involved in the industry, forums and to make presentations. "I believe it is important to enable the next generation to stand on our shoulders to achieve greater heights," Cheek said. Corley actively mentors others throughout the Freddie Mac organi- zation—from areas like IT, finance and a wide variety of other sectors. Currently, she is working with five different mentees. "I think mentoring has been something that I've spent a lot of time doing—trying to help women grow and recognize there's a safe environment to talk through dif- ferent issues," Corley said. She specifically tries to focus on women with young children, as that's something she experienced while climbing the corporate ladder. "I feel like it's my way of trying to give back," Corley said. "I never really had that [a mentor] when I was in their spot." Though these women's efforts in mentoring are honorable, it may not be enough to inspire industry-wide changes. Instead, Lewis believes there's something professional organizations can do to help move things along. "Perhaps there is an opportuni- ty within some of the larger trade organizations, like the Mortgage Bankers Association, to foster that as well," Lewis said. "Maybe some industry organizations could have some kind of mentoring program for women." Lewis believes in mentorship so much, she even tried to get a mentorship program together last year, to no avail. "I tried to get a key group of 20 women together, executives in our industry, to foster and mentor women in key leadership roles," Lewis said. "There was some interest, but I couldn't get it to really take off." Dillard, who participated in a Women's Initiative at two of her previous positions, said her company is developing a similar program as well. "I loved participating in the Women's Initiative when I was at Deloitte Consulting and EMC Mortgage, Dillard said. "We are just getting a similar initiative off the ground at Nationstar–bring- ing senior-level women leaders together to create a better com- munity for each other." Established last year, the Nationstar Women's Initiative "focuses on empowering, inspir- ing, and sharing ideas to help with development of women officers, and provide networking oppor- tunities across different areas to foster connections." It is designed for female EVPs and SVPs, and includes more than 25 senior officers at the company. It offers professional development, networking events, on-boarding support to new female officers and a formal mentoring program. Freddie Mac has several pro- grams for women, too. There's the WIN Women's Interactive Network, mentoring circles and, in past years, Women's Cohort groups. These, Corley said, were designed to identify "high- performing, high-potential female employees" and provide them with networking and training op- portunities. "I found that I, as a mentor, was probably learning just as much as the mentees," Corley said, "hearing all the issues that they're going through and just being able to provide guidance and perspective." Changing the Tides T hough mentorship is a great starting point, many female executives also say that women can take the matter into their own hands by blazing their own paths and demanding a spot at the table. Specifically, Dillard said, it's im- portant for women to be confident. "I wish that someone had told me to have more confidence in myself and not always think that the people in control or the ringleaders had some sort of special gift or some sort of special insight or knowledge that I didn't have," Dillard said. "I just don't find that to be true. I think for most women, if they work hard at it and they become a student of their business, the sky's the limit." According to Corley, taking risks is also a must. "Be willing to take chances, Corley said. "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." Being plugged into the industry is important, too, Lewis said. "Get involved," she said. "So much of it starts with putting yourself out there to do it. Volunteer, help, be a sponsor, be an advocate. Do something about it. Don't just let it happen." Cheek said participating in industry advisory groups, writing for publications and other acts can help women get their foot in the door as well. "I think it's important for there to be opportunities for women to build relationships with other industry participants," Cheek said. "They need to get their viewpoint on the industry out there." Phillips agreed that being heard is tantamount. "Be strong and willing to work hard," Phillips said. "Do not be afraid to offer your opinion when you can back it up with well- thought-out ideas. Do not follow the pack." 3MReport.indd "As a woman leader it doesn't take you long to realize that we need to be supportive of each other and to look for opportunities to promote the good work of our female peer group." —Dana Dillard, EVP and chief customer officer, Nationstar Mortgage

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