A Movement For Higher Pay, Better Jobs

Rocket Accelerator wants to see mortgage industry women achieve parity.

Katie Jensen
Rocket Accelerator meeting

Mallory Myers, a polite, mild-mannered woman, who has come up through the ranks at Rocket Pro TPO from loan officer to director of strategic partnerships, is spearheading a movement for women in the mortgage industry to achieve higher level positions and higher paying roles. 

Myers, committee board member of Rocket Accelerator, was inspired by her own experience climbing the ladder in the industry. It wasn’t easy starting off as a shy, young woman trying to stand out in a room full of men. Even after she attained a leadership position, she needed to work on letting go of her insecurities and shyness.

“I had to come out of my shell a little bit,” Myers said. “I had to learn how to say yes before no, to raise my hand if I thought I’d be a good fit for something or had something to contribute. I had to learn how to not be hesitant. I was pretty shy, but then I thought, ‘Hey, I’m working with a bunch of men who seem to be pretty outspoken,’ so I took on a similar behavior and learned to be one of those people.” 

After two years in the making, Myers was one of several board members who got the Rocket Accelerator Program up and running. A program dedicated to elevating women in their careers regardless of what position they hold or what company they work for. Accelerator can help female loan officers, brokers, processors, real estate agents, and support staff attain the positions they want while maintaining a healthy work-life balance. 

Accelerator Perks

Rocket Accelerator is primarily a mentorship program for women, but it comes with other perks as well, like conferences for women to attend, specialized communication, and career training. 

Myers says the program not only empowers women to achieve their career goals, but also fosters a community where women can come together and share their struggles and advice with one another. 

“We do recognize that women in business face extraordinary challenges —  primarily in the mortgage industry,” Myers said. “This is clearly a male-dominated industry. Right now only 43% of business professionals in the mortgage industry are female.” 

That gap may not seem too daunting, but if you look at the male-to-female ratio for higher level positions in the industry, the female share declines dramatically. In 2021, women held 11% of all c-suite roles in the financial services industries and only earned 90% of what men earned, according to a survey by BoardEx. A Zippia demographics report shows slightly less than one-third of all mortgage brokers are women. By helping women advance their careers, Rocket Accelerator is also helping to close the pay difference between men and women.

“We’re trying to close that gap a bit,” Myers said. “But on average, for every dollar that’s made by a male counterpart, a female with the same experience, same knowledge in the industry, and same title, is making 88 cents.” 

Not Respected

Yet, the challenge that most women are bringing up in meetings and with their mentor is being heard. In Rocket’s family of companies, Myers says they accept all feedback and operate on an open door policy within all areas of the company, but others in the industry may not have the privilege of working in such an environment and need to learn to stand up for themselves.

Whether someone is a sales professional, executive assistant, processor, underwriter, etc., they need to be confident enough to communicate problems and offer solutions. Rocket Accelerator offers an internal platform, called “The Cheese Factory,” allowing every team member within the organization to submit feedback and give responses. The purpose of the platform is to embrace feedback and strengthen the relationship between women in the mortgage industry.

“We want women in the mortgage industry to not feel like their lips must be sealed,” Myers said. “We don’t want them to feel like they can’t voice their opinions.”

– Mallory Myers

External members can also use it to strengthen company culture within their own organizations. For example, Rocket often runs sales competitions to motivate their loan officers and bankers, but the prizes were usually male-focused. In the past, the winner would get a pair of Jordan sneakers.

“For some females, that might appeal to them, but to give them another option would be better,” Myers said.

The Rocket Accelerator committee was able to step in and offer prizes that would motivate more females in the company. 

Other Unique Challenges

Women also face other unique challenges, like maintaining a healthy work-life balance and finding an employer that will respect the need for that balance. For instance, if a woman wants to attain a higher position but it requires a change of schedule, she might worry about whether she’s still able to take care of her kids after school. Depending on what position she’s striving for, there could be some very demanding hours that make it seem impossible to have a healthy work-life balance.

There are also other concerns women have when striving for higher level positions. At the time when most women are reaching the peak of their careers is when most are also considering starting a family — in their 30’s. This creates a tough ultimatum for women: advance your career or fulfill your dreams of having a family. 

This is what makes female mentorships so imperative. A female role model can demonstrate that it’s possible to excel in your career while being a good wife or mother to their family. 

Yet, these dilemmas get misconstrued as an “ambition gap,” as McKinsey & Company calls it. This would make it seem as if women are not as ambitious as men, but their reasons for not striving for executive-level positions are backed by legitimate concerns. For example, concerns about balancing family and work commitments, the perceived pressure associated with the top jobs, and too much politics in the c-suite are the primary reasons. There’s also a lack of female role models since very few occupy c-suite positions in the industry. In all, this makes the path to leadership less appealing. 

Self-Perpetuating Cycle

“The lack of women in C-suite positions is a self-perpetuating cycle,” Deanna Strable, executive vice president and chief financial officer at Principal Financial Services. “Because we don’t have many females in the C-suite, young women don’t see role models or potential paths towards executive-level leadership and are more likely to deselect themselves out of higher-level leadership roles.”

Also, once women attain the position they want, the concern is whether they’ll be able to get the same respect as their male counterparts. Myers explains that this issue commonly arises in the sales departments throughout the mortgage industry where women loan officers are perceived as being less knowledgeable by clients or peers.

“For instance, when a female loan officer is selling a loan, they might not get the same level of respect in terms of their knowledge when they’re selling to a male client,” Myers said. “It’s important that we leverage that, we use real life examples of our knowledge, demonstrate what we know and our experience in the industry, as well as use our resources to help make those sales and gain that level of respect we deserve.” 

Sales departments in the mortgage industry are known for being male dominant, so the integration of men and women in male-dominated departments is a goal for the Accelerator program. 

When Myers was working as a loan officer in the retail channel, prior to her current position, the department was between 90% to 95% male. The Accelerator program tries to push more females to apply for sales positions and create more diversity. Historically, there would be an entirely male-comprised team with a male leader and male senior leader, and then they’d attempt to recruit a female to fill a sales position. But that would make her “the only girl in a boys club,” as Myers put it, which is not as appealing.

Increasing Diversity

However, there has been more gender diversity in recent years. Today, Rocket’s sales teams are 30% to 40% female, and Myers is proud of the direction the company is heading in. 

It’s also more advantageous to have more women in sales, since studies show that more and more women are becoming the financial decision makers of their household. According to a recent McKinsey study, women control a third of total US household financial assets, more than $10 trillion. Compared to just five years ago, 30% more married women are making financial and investment decisions. More women than ever are family breadwinners as well, spurring more growth in investable assets. 

As more affluent women begin to control household finances, they’ll likely seek out new wealth management relationships that suit their needs. This is especially evident for widows; 70% of women switch their wealth relationship to a new financial institution within a year of their spouse’s death. 

Myers says she is seeing this effect more and more every day. Rocket sales teams are trained to focus less on interest rates and more on the client’s long term goals. So, in a way, these loan officers become similar to financial advisors and focus on building relationships with their clients. 

Myers said. “And as a female, if you’re speaking to a female borrower, it’s important to be able to level with them one-on-one. You not only gain more understanding of what their challenges or worries may be entering that mortgage transaction, but also sharing your struggles as well.”

Empathy Works

Sharing personal struggles and being relatable to clients gives loan officers a huge advantage. For example, sharing your personal home buying struggles and the process it took to get your own home loan may comfort a client who is currently undergoing the same process. 

Furthermore, a new trend is more women are buying homes before they get married, ditching the traditional custom that marriage should precede homebuying. According to a report from the National Association of Realtors, there has been a 30% increase in the number of single women purchasing homes since 2010. In fact, single women are twice as likely to buy a home for themselves compared to single men.

Rocket supports and encourages more women to enter sales and achieve higher level positions through the Accelerator program, which is primarily a mentorship program. Rocket, in particular, has plenty of female role models for women in the industry to look up to.

“Let’s say you’re a broker owner,” Myers said. “We have a broker owner as one of our top five production accounts within our wholesale division. She also works as a real estate broker, so she operates at double capacity. She’s been great at sharing her knowledge with other loan officers as well as real estate agents.” 

Mentors have the opportunity to share their best practices with other women in the industry. They address current topics like how to gain more purchase leads in a tough market, and analyze different marketing strategies. 

Strengthening Company Culture

The mentorship program can also strengthen company culture, Myers says. Rocket abides by 21 “isms” that all Rocket employees live and breathe by. The Accelerator program shares these “isms” with all their members so they can incorporate it within their own organizations.

“In this market, it’s easy to get down on yourself,” Myers said. “It’s easy to question what you’re doing and if this is the right thing to do at the right time. So, it’s important to have that embraced and have people who can share best practices on what we can do to overcome that struggle.”

Mentorships are also individually focused to help women achieve their specific career goals. The program matches up mentees with mentors who work in the department or role they want. This isn’t just origination focused; mentors also discuss marketing strategies and sales tactics that are useful to all mortgage professionals, no matter what position they currently hold.

Mentors and mentees are required to meet at least quarterly for a one-on-one meeting or a presentation. Mentors can create a powerpoint presentation that goes over generating purchase leads, marketing strategies, and overall best practices. Some mentors and mentees meet weekly, Myers said, and some even communicate daily.

Male Advocates, Too

There are some male mentors in the program as well that have volunteered to be an advocate for women in the industry. Myers said some men have joined the program to strengthen their own company culture by incorporating Rocket’s “isms.” Myers said they welcome and applaud men for joining the program.

“We’re not going to tell you that you can’t join because you’re not a female or don’t identify as a female — that’s not the goal here,” Myers said. “The goal is to provide support and make sure there’s awareness within the industry of some of the struggles that women face.”

Members can also benefit from attending Rocket Accelerator events, which are open to more than just Rocket employees. Currently, they offer 10 to 11 events per year, open to all women in the mortgage industry. External members, not part of Rocket, are encouraged to bring their account executives or direct account executives to help establish a relationship with the team.

Rocket Accelerator events are planned to be held quarterly. Because there are so many members in the Accelerator program already, not every member will be able to attend every show. Depending on the location and size of the venue, they limit invitations, but all members are encouraged to attend at least one or two events a year. Some events will be hosted in Rocket’s hometown, Detroit, but they will also be hosted nationwide. 

These events also have exciting guest speakers, like Olympic athlete Molly Fletcher, to help motivate and empower women in the crowd. Fletcher gave a presentation, Climbing In A Male-Dominated Industry, which truly resonated with the audience, Myers said, and got them interested in coming to more events. 

Janae Fredline, mortgage loan officer of Success Group Mortgage and Servicing LLC, recently attended an Accelerator event and shared why she likes being a part of the program. 

“It’s been great talking about the strengths and challenges that we endure every day, and networking and how we can be advocates for one another. It’s awesome,” Fredline said. 

Myers is currently planning for the next Accelerator event to be focused on women in the c-suite (date is TBA). KimArie Yowell, a career coach and Chief Learning Officer at Rocket Central, is lined up to be one of the speakers at the event. Yowell is on the board of several organizations within Rocket that focus on diversity and inclusion.

Internal Role Models

Although Myers admits that it’s hard to find very many women in the c-suite across the mortgage industry, there are plenty of female role models at Rocket that women can look up to. Patty Gratto, vice president of client experience operations, and Rondah Abboushi, vice president of client experience operations, are both influential women on the board of Rocket Accelerator. Keri Stichler, divisional vice president of national accounts at Rocket Pro TPO, is also a significant member on the Accelerator committee and encourages more female brokers to attend their events. 

“We have extremely powerful women in our broker community that are here on our campus in Detroit, Michigan,” said Stichler, while at a recent Rocket Accelerator event. “We’re going to be motivating and inspiring these powerful ladies and Rocket Accelerator is all about recognizing women in a male dominated industry.”

For women who are looking to become leaders, Rocket Accelerator is catered to help you. Women don’t need to be more ruthless, calculating, or act out of character to be taken seriously as a boss. Myers says that there are other, more important characteristics, a boss can have that may come more naturally to women. Being empathetic and truly caring for your team is one important trait that successful leaders have, Myers said. 

“I’ve had leaders in the past who were very metric focused. They cared more about results than the longevity of their team, and as a result they experienced a lot of turnover as well as low client and employee retention rate,” Myers said. “It’s important to have empathy, especially if you’re working 12 or 14 hour days together. At that point, that’s your family and you should treat it as that. You’re spending more time with these individuals than you are at home with your own family. So, I think it’s really important to become close with those individuals and peers that are reporting directly to you.” 

Myers also found through her own experience that good leaders are not afraid to run into the fire. Meaning, if there is a difficult situation, you take it head on. For example, if there’s an issue with a broker partner who is feeling frustrated, the leader needs to be willing and able to pick up the phone and deal with it. 

Even though leaders need to be respected, they can’t be afraid of a little vulnerability. Even the boss makes a mistake from time to time. Myers sometimes shares her struggles with her team and they work through them together. 

“I’ve had phone calls where I essentially got my teeth kicked in — I’ve had bad sales calls. But, I embrace that. I share that with my team and I ask them for feedback the same way I would provide them feedback,” Myers said. “It allows you to be very real and very human with your team.” 

Women in the industry can learn all these tips and more by joining the Rocket Accelerator Program at www.rocketprotpo.com

This article was originally published in the Mortgage Women Magazine November 2022 issue.
Katie Jensen
Published on
Nov 21, 2022
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