December 2016 - Getting Serious About Diversity

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20 | TH E M R EP O RT FEATURE I n a historically homogenous industry, diversity inclusion laws are now changing the face of housing—quite literally. Section 1116 of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 required Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Home Loan Banks and other federal agen- cies to promote diversity and the inclusion of women and minority in all activities, a rule that became effective in 2011. The law required that each regulated entity establish an office of minority and women inclusion or designate an office responsible for the diversity requirements and standards. Diversity is supposed to be promoted "in all activities and at every level of the covered organizations, including manage - ment, employment, and contract- ing." The subsequent Dodd-Frank law (Section 342) extended some of these requirements to other financial regulatory agencies and specified that the agencies had to have a separate Office of Minority and Women Inclusion (OMWI). To promote diversity in the workplace, each agency governed by Dodd-Frank is charged with taking affirmative steps to seek diversity in the workforce by: • Recruiting at historically black colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, women's colleges, and colleges that typically serve majority minority populations • Sponsoring and recruiting at job fairs in urban communities • Placing employment adver - tisements in newspapers and magazines oriented toward minorities and women • Partnering with organizations that are focused on developing opportunities for minorities and women to place talented young minorities and women in industry internships, sum- mer employment, and full-time positions • Where feasible, partnering with inner-city high schools, girls' high schools, and high schools with majority minority popula- tions to establish or enhance financial literacy programs and provide mentoring • Any other mass media com- munications deemed to be necessary In the Federal Register, the FHFA says its policy "is to pro- mote non-discrimination diversity, and, at a minimum, the inclusion of women, minorities and indi- viduals with disabilities in its own activities and in the business and activities of the regulated entities and the Office of Finance." The rules further require mortgage companies to conduct annual self-assessments of their diversity policies. These include increasing participation when it comes to contracting women- owned and minority-owned businesses. A Necessary Start T he need for federal rules and industry initiatives to proactively promote diversity seeks to change what has historically been a very homogeneous business. And it's not just the GSEs who are paying attention—other companies are following suit with implementing their own policies on diversity and inclusion even though they aren't mandated to. "Historically, there hasn't been a lot of diversity in the mortgage industry," said Vladimir Bien- Aime, CEO of Global DMS, a firm that became minority-certified in 2014. "In the past, there was less diversity, although that is slowly improving in recent years." Awareness of the diversity issues facing the industry is the first step to addressing them, Bien-Aime says. "There are some really amazing firms like PCV Murcor and Urban Lending that are doing a great job shining a light on the issue by addressing the diversity issues in a proactive way; these firms have shown exceptional growth," he said, adding that some industry groups, such as the American Mortgage Diversity Council, have been instrumental in addressing the diversity cause as well. At Global DMS, diversity has always been a natural part of the firm's culture, Bien-Aime says. "It was more of an organic thing," he said. "We've always employed a large number of women and minorities. Our staff is 40 percent female. Other mortgage firms also have dedicated themselves to the diversity of their companies and to serving a diverse customer base." Churchill Mortgage even created a position just for From Policy to Practice Diversity laws are making an impact within the mortgage and housing industries, both on companies required to follow new policies, as well as ones choosing to adapt new inclusion strategies. By Phil Britt

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