Keeping Up with D&I in a Down Market

WASHINGTON–“You’ve heard the phrase, ‘it takes a village;’ for us, ‘it takes a community,'” said Lisa J. Haynes, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer with the Mortgage Bankers Association.

DI PanelBut with the real estate marketplace showing signs of slowing, panelists here at the MBA Diversity & Inclusion Summit said efforts to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace could become increasingly challenging–but more important than ever.

J. Tony Thompson III, CMB, AMP, had a message for organizations: keep D&I high on the priority list.

“If you don’t think you need me now, you won’t be around in 10 years,” said Thompson, Vice President of Growth & Strategy with Silverton Mortgage Specialists, Atlanta, and founder of the National Association of Minority Mortgage Bankers of America (NAMMBA). “We know that 2019 is going to be a tough year. This represents a great opportunity for people in the real estate finance industry to challenge their companies on diversity and inclusion, because the landscape is shifting now. They can separate themselves from the pack now on D&I.”

“D&I cannot continue to be a standalone metric,” said Dominica Groom, Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion with Freddie Mac, McLean, Va. “It has to be integrated into every aspect of the organization.”

Desirée Patno, CEO and President of Women in the Housing and Real Estate Ecosystem (NAWRB) and Desirée Patno Enterprises Inc., Irvine, Calif., said now is not the time for companies to scale back on D&I. “Inclusion means that no one is left behind,” she said. “It has to be a business decision.”

DeborahRosadoShawDeborah Rosado Shaw, Senior Vice President and Chief of Global Diversity and Engagement with PepsiCo and a global expert in leadership, diversity and performance, said now is the perfect time for organizations to embrace a diversity and inclusion strategy.

“We’ve been ironing out the kinks for 25 years,” Rosado Shaw said. “Find out what it is you’re committed to; find out who is committed; and talk to people who have proven results: did their work improve? Did they become better team players? If they can’t say ‘yes,’ then it’s just entertainment.”

Organizations face “unprecedented demographic shifts” in their business model,” Rosado Shaw added. “And it’s compounded by a looming diversity challenge on all fronts–staffing, customers and community,” she said.

Which, said Miguel Narvaez, Chief Production Officer and Partner with Alterra Home Loans, Las Vegas, is why D&I “should not be an option; it should be mandatory.” And it’s also why, he added, it’s incumbent on people already within organizations to keep the momentum going.

“We have to be mindful of the notion that anyone should be able to aspire to any position,” Narvaez said. “We try to grow people within our structure. Most of our AVPs started out as loan officers. We empower people with more responsibility. It’s about finding people to empower and allow them to make decisions.”

Thompson agreed. “As I talk with employees and CEOs, one theme that persists is ‘familiarity,'” he said. “If job prospects don’t see co-workers of color and of women in positions of responsibility, then they don’t see much opportunity.”