Empowering Women Requires Societal Influence

Aneeza Haleem

Aneeza Haleem is Director of Technology with Planet Home Lending, Meriden, Conn., working across the mortgage lifecycle with an eye for challenging the norm. She can be reached at https://www.linkedin.com/in/aneezah/.

Today, women hold more public offices than at any point in history–Angela Merkel, Sheikh Hasina, Sanna Marin, Jacinda Arden, Halimah Yacob–these ladies are no longer anomalies. They are part of a trend at every level of decision making (both corporate and government) of the increasing influence women have.

On an international scale, the United Nations Development Programme Innovation Facility has invested in more than 140 groundbreaking experiments across 87 countries and territories. Accelerator Labs in 60 countries are creating opportunities, developing new partnerships, and uncovering new ideas that inspire changes benefitting everyone.

Nationally, there a slew of initiatives to encourage diversity and inclusion within the workforce. When the proportion of women in the labor force increases, U.S. GDP benefits. Some estimates suggest more women in the workforce could add nearly $6 trillion to the global stock market over the next decade.

When women have significant leadership influence within a corporation, return on equity increases, a 2011 Catalyst analysis found. Fortune 500 companies with three or more women board directors over posted 50% higher ROE over a five-year period when compared to companies having no women board directors. Those findings were echoed by a 2014 Credit Suisse Research Institute study concluding having females in 15% of top management roles led companies to have higher ROE than companies where women comprised less than 10% of top management roles.

Within our own industry, we are seeing an uptick in female influence at every level across the spectrum of lending. Organizations like Bank of America are leading the way in reversing this trend— women make up more than 50% of the bank’s global workforce, more than 45% of its global management team, and more than 40% of managers with direct reports. Also important are partnerships like Freddie Mac’s with iRelaunch who focus on reintroducing women to the workplace after a break in employment and internal groups like Fannie Mae’s Women’s Employee Resource Group (WERG) hosts events on sponsorship, career navigation, mentorship, networking, and advocating for yourself.

Similarly, we are seeing the rise of women customers. Per the New York Times, women, who make up 53.2 percent of the single population in 2016, are more likely to be homeowners (reference United States Census Bureau.) U.S. Census Bureau data shows women outpacing single men in homeownership over the past three decades.

Women are also gaining ground as business owners. More than 11.6 million firms are owned by women, employing nearly 9 million people, and generating $1.7 trillion in sales as of 2017. U.S. Women-owned businesses expanded one and a half times faster businesses overall during the past 15 years. Today, 8 million people work for a woman-owned business and women-owned businesses earn $1.4 trillion in revenues. Add to that the $20 trillion in consumer spending decisions that women control globally and you get a sense of the power women exert as both corporate leaders and consumers. As more women become homeowners and business owners, our industry and housing overall will feel the effects of their increased buying power.

The influx of women in power is accelerating the move toward greater gender equality as we increase the number and scope of laws and corporate policies that allow women to gain entry into formal and informal labor markets and to rise to leadership based on their skills and accomplishments.

With the ever-increasing demand from consumers for personalized attention and the need to cater to this growing diverse customer base – the need of the hour is for lending executives to recognize and adapt. Diversify your decision makers so your solutions resonate with this growing customer base. Attracting a diverse population to your company is one part of the equation, just as important is retaining this population.

Hiring for diversity is not enough – to succeed, inclusion and diversity need to be woven into the fabric of our offerings. It needs to be a mindset change, not a superficial checkbox. The objective of the initiatives need to be, as Sheryl Sandberg said, that in the future there are no women leaders, just leaders.

(Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect policy of the Mortgage Bankers Association, nor do they connote an MBA endorsement of a specific company, product or service. MBA NewsLink welcomes your submissions. Inquiries can be sent to Mike Sorohan, editor, at msorohan@mba.org; or Michael Tucker, editorial manager, at mtucker@mba.org.)