It’s been a long year without in-person events. Last International Women’s Day was the last time that many of us were able to network face-to-face with peers from within the broking industry, which added an extra flair to the Commercial & Asset Finance Brokers Association (CAFBA) annual IWD breakfast meeting.
Spectacularly set in the shadow of the Harbour Bridge at the Kirribilli Club, the event saw women from all backgrounds within the broking industry meet to share coffee and listen to speakers discussing the progress that has been made by women in finance, but also the challenges that still lie ahead.
“Blokes are really good at networking and historically events have catered more to them,” said Karla Poulton, Head of Account Management and Settlements at Flexi Commercial, who sponsored the breakfast. “This event is a really good example of something that women prefer and allows women to network with each other. It’s really important and there should be more of it. Different events that have combination of education, networking and fun is what is needed.”
Many of those at the event were quick to reflect on the growth that has taken place in their time within the industry, especially regarding female representation and allowing new role models to emerge.
“In the last five to ten years there’s been an increase in the number of women in more senior positions,” said Poulton, who has over twenty years behind her in financial services. “It still depends what part of the industry you’re in as to whether you would have women to look up to, but there’s definitely more than when I started.”
Agreeing with her was Tina Clark, a broker at Laurentide Financial Services, who reflected on her two decades’ worth of experience. “When I started, there wasn’t many of us. I couldn’t count them on one hand,” she said. “It’s an interesting thing, because I do commercial financing and there’s more and more women coming in because they don’t find it as scary.”
“I’m not sure what more they could do because it’s totally up to women, it’s everyone’s choice. Maybe (we need more) education: I fell into the industry because I didn’t know that you could actually do this for a living. We all know about mortgage brokers but nobody knows about commercial brokers or equipment financing. I fell into the role so maybe we need more education that you can actually do this.”
One woman who had the benefit of trailblazers like Karla and Tina was Caroline Watkinson, an advisor at Danforth Finance, who began her career on the reception of a firm where Tina Clark was the only female to look up to.
“A few of the women here today inspire me,” said Watkinson. “I used to work with Tina Clark and she’s driven me to do loads of courses and develop my skills as a broker over the years. She’d be one of my role models. I’ve been in the industry for 12 years now, and I started in the reception where Tina worked and there was literally just her.”
“We could drive the education and encourage the women in support roles so they know they can be a broker if that’s what they want to do. I was inspired by watching what the brokers did and seeing them encourage me because they knew I could do it as well.”
That said, there is still a lot of work to be done. Rachel Hind, founder and CEO at Best Capital, said that events such as the CAFBA one were vital to empowering women and increasing participation.
“Only 27% of brokers are female, but I actually don’t think it feels like that,” she said. “I attend a lot of female events, I get out there and empower women. I hang out at a lot of women’s forums.”
“I don’t feel like there’s a lot of gender exclusion, but then I’m proactive in getting involved. If you’re not proactive, it doesn’t come to you. I think broking is a great industry for females, especially mums like me, because it has that flexibility. You can work as much as you want and still pick up the kids from school. It’s a great choice for females.”