mPower: Lissia Hundley on Identifying ‘Unconscious Bias’ in Workplace

DALLAS– MBA Promoting Opportunities for Women to Extend their Reach, or mPower, continued its programming here this week with an event at the MBA National Mortgage Servicing Conference & Expo.

“As women in the industry, it’s important that we provide this insight, that we give voice to each other and support one another,” said Yvette Gilmore, vice president of servicing performance management with Freddie Mac, McLean, Va., which sponsored the event.

Lissia Hundley, vice president of workforce diversity and inclusion and university relations with Comcast, discussed “unconscious bias” in the workplace and its effect on individuals and the workforce.

HundleyLissiaHundley wasted no opportunity. “If you have a brain–you’re biased,” she said. “Whatever your diversity situation is, you’re biased.”

Unconscious bias, Hundley said, refers to a bias of which we are unaware, happening outside of our control, that happens automatically and is triggered by our brain making quick judgments and assessment of people and situation. It is influenced, she said, by family, friends, the workplace, media and other external factors.

Typical biases play a huge role in the workplace. “White-sounding” names, for example, are 50 percent more likely to get a callback than someone with a “black-sounding” name. Nearly 60 percent of corporate CEOs are more than six feet tall, despite the fact that less than 15 percent of the male population is more than six feet tall.

“How many of you, when you hear the word ‘manager,’ automatically think of a man?” Hundley asked.

Unconscious behavior filters over into the workplace, and they follow us to work, Hundley said. “It has an impact on recruiting and retaining talent,” she said. “It affects the entire workplace culture.”

“It’s okay to raise your hand and say you’re ‘biased,'” Hundley said. “Bias is normal and it’s unintentional. It doesn’t mean we’re bad people–but how we resolve these biases is important to who we are. Unconscious bias forces us to rethink the way we approach diversity and inclusion. The challenge is that ‘getting it,’ on a conscious level, may have little or no impact on our unconscious behaviors.”

Changing a culture on unconscious bias in the workplace requires leadership, Hundley said. “And I’m not just talking about people who have ‘leader’ in their title,” she said. “It requires commitment from H.R., from senior management and from every corner of the workplace.”

MBA Chief Operating Officer Marcia Davies noted a recent Harvard Business Review study found that women are behind the “vast majority” of a household’s financial decisions–from purchases of home furnishings, vacations, vehicles and electronics to decisions about mortgages and other loans. Yet businesses don’t reflect that fact. A 2016 Urban Institute study found that while single women often have lower incomes, carry more debt and have lower credit scores, they are more likely to pay their mortgage than their single male counterparts. Single women also outpace single men as first-time and repeat homebuyers.

mPower now boasts more than 800 members. It began at the MBA 2015 Annual Convention & Expo in San Diego, when Davies organized an informal get-together or women attending the conference to meet for lunch and facilitate connections. She invited 85 women, but nearly 200 showed up. At the MBA Annual Convention & Expo in Boston this past October, the mPower event, featuring MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski, drew 450 people.

mPower recently sponsored an event at the MBA Independent Mortgage Bankers Conference that attracted more than 100 participants and has events scheduled at the , the MBA CREF/Multifamily Housing Convention & Expo; the MBA National Technology in Mortgage Banking Conference & Expo; the MBA National Secondary Market Conference & Expo; and the MBA Commercial/Multifamily Servicing and Technology Conference.

Additionally, at the MBA 2017 Annual Convention & Expo, mPower will host an all-day event on Saturday, Oct. 21.

“Women are under-represented in every aspect of business,” Davies said. “The industry should recognize women as both a target market and as leaders. As an industry, we need to instill a culture of diversity that will benefit the industry and consumers alike. Diversity and profitability can go hand in hand.”

The mPower platform links professionals in the real estate finance industry, but specifically targets the interests and issues of professional women. Currently it is open only to MBA members, but there are plans to open the platform to non-members in 2017. mPower offers communication about MBA events, resources and information, and also features an mPower members-only forum for discussions. Any MBA member can join by signing up at