Sue Woodard of AXIS Lending Academy: Program’s DEI Mission ‘Captured My Heart’

Sue Woodard is a director of AXIS Lending Academy. She is also a Senior Advisor at STRATMOR Group, an advisory firm in the mortgage industry. A former top producing originator and winner of multiple industry awards, Woodard began her mortgage career more than 30 years ago and is frequently called on as an industry speaker and subject matter expert.

Sue Woodard

This is part 2 in a four-part series, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Mortgage Industry. In addition to a closing piece written by AXIS Chair Paul Gigliotti, the series includes pieces authored by AXIS directors Kevin Peranio, Brian Vieaux and Sue Woodard.

MBA NEWSLINK: What has been your experience in the mortgage industry when it comes to DEI?

SUE WOODARD, AXIS Lending Academy: While I think any industry has room to improve, I am proud of the progress I’ve seen in the real estate finance industry, both in my own experience and what I’ve seen happening on the national front. NAMMBA, NAHREP, MBA and now AXIS Lending Academy have all been working hard to raise awareness in a significant way, including promotion of education, scholarships, and community to improve DEI in our industry. While we have quite a ways to go to create more equity in our industry, especially at the leadership levels, I’m excited about the momentum that’s being created. You can definitely feel the tide turning.

NEWSLINK: What is the benefit to the industry of being more diverse, equitable and inclusive?

WOODARD: The mortgage industry is so unique. While other industries certainly create many cool things and do good work, we help people get into homes – those special places where your life happens, where we feel safe and that are the centers of our lives and families. What is more important than that? Homes are what make up the neighborhoods and communities we all live in. The biggest benefit of ensuring we are thoughtful and intentional about being diverse, equitable and inclusive to all is that our companies will (and should) reflect the communities we serve. Hiring and promoting people of different backgrounds also increases diversity of thought and ideas within organizations, which is a big reason why companies that create DEI initiatives and follow through on them tend to perform better.

NEWSLINK: What steps would you like to see individual home lenders and service providers take in order to enhance DEI?

WOODARD: Rather than less talk and more action, I’d say we need more talk and more action.  Raising awareness and taking action are both critical, which is why the launch of AXIS Lending Academy is so important and so timely.

In my experience, lenders and service providers have great hearts and great intentions when it comes to diversity. That’s great, but good intentions can only get you so far. AXIS Lending Academy provides clear pathways for taking meaningful action outside of internal and individual company efforts. The AXIS program helps to create awareness, education, scholarship, internship, placement, and real opportunities to lift the individual and the industry overall. We should be loud and intentional on creating awareness and opportunities around the limitless career paths we can offer to all individuals. Our industry’s efforts to enhance DEI shouldn’t be such a well-kept secret!  

NEWSLINK: What motivated you to join the AXIS Lending Academy board and contribute your time and resources?

WOODARD: I love this industry. I love our great country made up of many different communities, families and individuals, and I love helping to give a hand up to people of different backgrounds and life experiences. The work we do helping people buy homes, which is a lifelong dream for many, is so rewarding. Everyone who wants to experience that feeling should be able to do so. A dream come true would be for even more people from all walks of life and backgrounds to have the opportunity to share in the joy, sweat, tears, smiles, and the truly great rewards that are a part of our industry’s work advancing homeownership in our communities.

The possibilities for a great career in our industry are limitless. Unfortunately, there are a lot of talented people who may feel stuck in their current career and who have never even considered a career in the mortgage industry. The ability of AXIS Lending Academy to literally offer a life changing opportunity to someone who has not been given a traditional career path just captured my heart. How can you learn about its mission and not want to get involved? Education brings empowerment, which is why I’m honored to be on the board at AXIS Lending Academy.

(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; or Michael Tucker, editorial manager, at