This year, the FAST Women in Business series welcomed more than 400 delegates across five events. Designed to empower, inspire and connect professionals from all walks of life, this is just one way the aggregation group is supporting more people to succeed in broking
In their day-to-day work, brokers deal with a diverse cross-section of clients and employees. In fact, the latest Opportunities for Women report, commissioned by the MFAA, discovered that 55% of brokers believe their customer base is becoming more culturally diverse.
However, such diversity isn’t always reflected in the broker community. For example, in terms of gender diversity, the MFAA report highlighted a worrying trend: the share of female brokers joining the industry has declined to 30% from a peak of 34% in 2015.
Further, the total proportion of female brokers in the MFAA network currently stands at 27.1%, compared to 50% female participation in the broader financial services industry.
The numbers show that women are still under-represented in the broking industry, and we will continue to contribute to the conversation on the benefits for women of becoming finance brokers,” says Brendan Wright, CEO of FAST.
Recognising the opportunity to become part of the solution, in 2013 FAST launched its Women in Business program – at the time it was the first aggregator-led professional development program for women.
Designed to unite females from the industry in an informal setting, as well as provide positive role models for those who might be considering building their businesses, today the event also promotes other facets of diversity and inclusion, such as culture, background, experience and thinking.
“I believe the greatest opportunity for any leader is diversity enablement – through gender, thinking, culture and background. We believe it is a game changer, in a sustainable way, and we will continue to champion for diversity,” says Wright.
This year, more than 400 brokers, lenders and industry representatives from across the country attended the seventh Women in Business series, which took place in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Brisbane between 24 July and 1 August.
Inspiring delegates to lead change in the industry, Rabia Siddique – an Australian criminal and human rights lawyer, retired British army officer and author – told delegates her harrowing story of surviving a hostage crisis in Iraq and suing the British government for gender and racial discrimination.
During her keynote presentation she said, “A message I remember getting after is, ‘Rabia, if you as one person, a woman, a foreigner, could take on the might of the British government and impact change, you have inspired us to take a stand in our lives and in our workplaces and in our communities.’
“That’s when it dawned on me: the power of the one. The power that we all have to create ripples of change. Waves come from ripples. And it takes one stone, one person to create that. Why should it not be you?”
“We’ve fostered a culture of diversity and inclusion to achieve greater productivity, innovation and employee engagement in the business in a sustainable way” Brendan Wright, CEO, FAST
Creating a culture of diversity
FAST’s culture of diversity and inclusion is no accident.
Today, around 25% of FAST brokers and half of its employees are female, and it is expected that the numbers will continue to rise as diversity across culture, experience, background and thinking is heavily promoted throughout the business.
If successful, the benefits will be tangible. Reports published last year by McKinsey & Company and the Peterson Institute for International Economics both concluded that companies with higher levels of gender diversity could expect to see up to 20% higher profits. In 2015, the figure stood at 15%.
“We’ve fostered a culture of diversity and inclusion to achieve greater productivity, innovation and employee engagement in the business in a sustainable way,” says Wright.
“At FAST there are many high-performing female brokers who are providing fantastic customer service and an understanding of delivering personal, home and business debt advice needs.”
It isn’t simply that gender is good for FAST; working in broking can be highly beneficial for women too. From commission-based pay that eliminates the possibility of a gender pay gap to flexible working that fits around other life commitments, the industry offers many breaks for business-minded women.
“I believe it is important for the industry to continue to focus on growing diversity and inclusion through its employment practices. I encourage everyone to get women, and diversity more broadly, in and around the business they lead.
It’s a game changer in a sustainable way,” says Wright.
“We also need to continue to provide opportunities for professional development and networking, such as Women in Business, so women can share their challenges and hear the success stories of their peers.”
Although Wright says Women in Business is now part of FAST’s legacy, it is far from the only development supporting the cause. Not only will the series return in 2020 – and beyond – but FAST is also designing a program of work to provide opportunities for its female employees as well as the wider community of women brokers.
“As the CEO of FAST, I see that I have a responsibility to create opportunities for others to develop and expand their capability in their chosen career or business.
“We not only want to attract more women to the FAST network, but we want those women to really be able to make their mark,” says Wright.