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The Mortgage Industry (Still) Has A Problem

Sexism, misogyny, and gender bias still pervade our space

Erica LaCentra headshot
Insider
Erica LaCentra
Industry (still) has a problem

With my professional milestone of 10 years in the mortgage industry rapidly approaching in February, it’s only natural that I started to reflect on the humble beginnings of my career in mortgage lending. However, despite how much the mortgage industry has changed and grown over the last decade, it’s hard not to think about how gender bias in our space continues to exist, and we as an industry have not really been forced to take a hard look at this issue and make a shift towards a better future.

Why in the year 2023 does the mortgage industry continue to fall behind and allow sexism, misogyny, and gender bias to still pervade our space?

An Accountability Problem

I recently had the experience of attending an industry conference that had a separate women’s luncheon. This luncheon was put on by a women’s industry group which had been formed within the last year in an effort to connect women in the industry so that we could find mentorship, mentor others and ultimately work to address the issues women continue to face in our space. I viewed this as a great opportunity to network, hear from a notable female speaker and simply enjoy the chance to get to know my female industry peers over a nice meal.

When I arrived at the luncheon, small giveaway “swag” items had been provided by the various companies that had sponsored the event. One of these was a pocket-sized container of pepper spray that bore the phrase “supporting women in private lending.” While I’m sure the intention of this item was good, it was hard not to feel uncomfortable due to the fact that someone thought it was not only a good idea but potentially necessary for female attendees to receive pepper spray while at an industry conference, where, like our male counterparts, we are just trying to do our jobs.

Receiving pepper spray set off an ah-ha moment for me as to why the mortgage industry has not been able to make bigger strides toward fighting misogyny and sexist behavior in our space. Rather than focusing on creating a safer environment for women and holding men accountable, the onus is on women to protect themselves. And it’s true, one of the biggest issues preventing the mortgage industry from moving forward is we refuse to truly hold the bad actors responsible for their actions.

Sexism And Scandals

Over the last decade, I’ve witnessed my fair share of sexist behavior and outright scandals in the mortgage industry. So many instances of individuals exhibiting vile behavior towards women that simply should not be tolerated. But for some reason, while immediate backlash is typical, so is the incident getting glossed over after the initial outrage subsides. These individuals have been welcomed back into the mortgage industry time and time again after a slap on the wrist. It’s no wonder that sexism, misogyny, and gender bias continue to exist in our industry.

When there are no real long-term repercussions, it signals that this behavior is OK and women don’t deserve the same level of respect or support because heaven forbid a man’s career is ruined over “one little incident.” Simply put, the mortgage industry has more to do in these situations before we see more permanent change.

We Can Do Better

While the mortgage industry has certainly improved over the last decade for women, we can still do better, and that change has to start at the top. It’s time for our industry leaders to stop ignoring the impact that sexist and misogynistic behaviors are having. Leadership in the mortgage industry needs to start implementing clear policies within their companies against gender inequality and sexism in the workplace with swift and lasting punishments. No more sweeping incidents under the rug or turning a blind eye, it’s time to weed out the bad actors once and for all.

Also, men need to be better allies to their female peers. It’s not just up to the women experiencing misogyny and sexism to have to speak up and hope it is dealt with appropriately. It’s up to men AND women in the industry to stop tolerating this bad behavior. Having been in uncomfortable situations before, there is nothing more validating than when someone else observing the situation steps in and echoes your sentiment; that what is happening is wrong. And as more people continue to speak up, it can cause more permanent change for the better.

Finally, it’s time the mortgage industry truly created safe spaces for women, and by that, I don’t just mean creating women’s groups. While women’s groups create great opportunities for women to network, why can’t workplaces, events, and conferences just be safer overall? Women shouldn’t feel like they need to hide within a group to be safe.

Take reports of harassment, sexism, and discrimination seriously, and create lasting repercussions for the offenders. One of the reasons why so many women in the industry brush off harassment at events is because they feel like they have no one to really report it to, and even so, who is going to do anything about it? There is a good chance you’ll see that person at your next event, so it can be infinitely easier to try to ignore those interactions and hope you can avoid that person in the future. Women should have the ability to report offenders without fear of nothing being done and potential retaliation.

There are so many seemingly small things that can be done that will make a big impact on this problem in the mortgage industry. As I continue on my journey in this space, I truly hope these changes can be made, even if just gradually, so that when I look back after another 10 years, I can say, “Look how far we’ve come.”

This article was originally published in the NMP Magazine January 2023 issue.
Erica LaCentra headshot
Erica LaCentra

Erica LaCentra is Chief Marketing Officer for RCN Capital.

Published on
Dec 28, 2022
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