Oct. 2015 - Diversified We Stand, Divided We Fall

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TH E M R EP O RT | 17 COVER STORY T here is a demographic shift happening within the mortgage profession. In an industry that is so male and white- focused, women and minorities are often passed over for well-deserved positions and promotions, but this idea is being reshaped and redefined right before our eyes. Individual companies, govern- ment agencies, and trade orga- nizations are working diligently to make diversity and inclusion a priority. In the process new defi- nitions are being crafted for what it means to be a diverse company, and organizations that are lagging behind will soon find themselves racing to catch up as diverse organizations benefit from the innovation that a variety of ideas and backgrounds create. "Our industry will look to di- versity and inclusion as sources of competitive advantage," explained Kevin Wall, president of First American's Mortgage Solutions Group and member of the Five Star Institute's newly created American Mortgage Diversity Council (AMDC). "Great leaders will recognize that their organi- zation's competitiveness can be enhanced by embedding diversity and inclusion into their business objectives, organizational struc- ture, and approach to people. Diversity and inclusion aren't just about recruiting or retentions, they're levers to help transform the culture of an organization into one that is market-focused, leadership-focused, and people focused." Numbers Don't Lie A ccording to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2014, women make up 46.9 percent of the entire workforce, while African American or blacks occupy 11.4 percent of the workforce, Asians make up 5.7 percent, and Hispanics or Latinos make up 16.1 percent. There appears to be an even larger disparity between different ethnic groups in the mortgage industry. In the financial activities sector, African Americans or blacks ac- count for 9.1 percent of this work- force, Asians make up 6.3 percent, and Hispanics or Latinos make up 11.3 percent, the data showed. The data also found that in the real estate workforce, African Americans or blacks make up 7.8 percent of this group, Asians ac- count for 3.8 percent, and Hispanics or Latinos make up 14.9 percent. "Today's effective leaders will recognize that beyond race, gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation, di- versity also applies to thought, skill, and passion," Wall said. "They will facilitate a corporate culture that provides the flexibility to challenge traditional thinking in search of the best business solutions. In such an environment, people are able to advocate their point of view pas- sionately, even from the status quo. That is how you foster innovation." Legislative Action O n July 21, 2010, President Obama signed the Dodd- Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act into law. This intention was "to promote financial stability of the U.S. by improving accountability and transparency in the financial system, to end 'too big to fail,' to protect the American taxpayer by ending bailouts, to protect consumers from abusive financial services practices, and other pur - poses," the Dodd-Frank Act says. Among those 'other purposes' is a highly important portion of the Dodd-Frank Act—Section 342. The legislation requires inclusion of women and minorities in all levels of business activities and applies to contracts of the agencies for services of any kind, such as from financial institutions, investment banking firms, mortgage banking firms, asset management firms, brokers, dealers, financial services entities, underwriters, accountants, investment consultants, and pro - viders of legal services. This part of the Act requires fed- eral agencies to establish an Office of Minority and Women Inclusion (OMWI). These offices are respon- sible for promoting diversity and ensuring the inclusion of minorities and women within management, workforce, and business activities. Agencies covered by Section 342 of Dodd-Frank are the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), the 12 regional Federal Reserve Banks, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the National Credit Union Administration, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Department of the Treasury. Sharron Levine, director of the FHFA's OMWI, oversees all diversity-and inclusion-related matters within the agency, includ - ing the policies, programs, and initiatives of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Home Loan Bank System, which includes 11 FHLBanks and the Office of Finance. "I believe that being an integral part of this very important func - tion could yield sustainable and far-reaching economic benefits for traditionally underrepresented groups," Levine said. "In turn, that could translate into greater access to credit for those populations, with the attendant benefits that homeownership brings." Moving forward, Levine hopes the FHFA's OMWI purpose and direction of diversity and inclusion spans further than just the 'right thing to do' and that economic im - plications of the global demographic trends and changes are considered. "Given the vast number of chal- lenges and opportunities that these changes and trends are likely to bring, the increased and increasing buying power of minorities and women, businesses would do well to consider taking steps to becom - ing more culturally competent to deal with diverse consumers and users of their goods and services," she explained. Another major legislative change that occurred in June 2015 was the "I believe that being an integral part of this very important function could yield sustainable and far-reaching economic benefits for traditionally underrepresented groups." —Sharron Levine, FHFA

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