MFAA Opportunities for Women report shows shift in male attitudes

by Mike Wood12 Mar 2021

Male brokers are becoming ever more aware of gender imbalances in the mortgage broking industry, according to the Mortgage & Finance Association of Australia’s (MFAA) third annual International Women’s Day report.

According to the 2021 edition of the Opportunities for Women report, the number of male brokers who were unaware of the gender gap in the industry fell from 72% to 50% across the last three years. While there is still a significant way to go, it represents a not inconsiderable perception shift.

“The biggest advances are the increasing awareness of males in the industry that there are differences in experiences of women and other diverse members,” said Jane Counsel, the expert who led the MFAA’s initiative. “What the Opportunities for Women initiative has been very successful at doing over the past three years is making the invisible barriers that women experience in the industry much more visible.”

“There has been an almost 10 percentile point fall in the number of men who believe that women are not under-represented in the industry which is very significant. On the question of whether everyone regardless of gender, race, age, disability, sexual identification etc had the same opportunities for development and advancement, the number of yes responses has also fallen by more than 10 percentile points.”

“Male members are also increasingly answer unsure on a number of key questions related to women’s participation and experiences in the industry, shifting away from no responses. All of these data points show that male industry members are certainly becoming more aware of the challenges and barriers women have and are facing in the industry and it is pleasing to see that the OFW research is driving more awareness and conversations about issues in the industry.”

As much as anything, perception shift creates the conditions where change can take place.

“The shifts in perceptions from male members are incredibly important because men are a major part of the solution in breaking down the barriers and challenges that women face and influencing a greater sense of inclusion for women and other diversity across the industry,” said Counsel. 

“The fact that the OFW research has triggered increasing awareness, conversations and greater engagement in men in acknowledging the challenges is incredibly powerful and a is a starting point in driving change. The key challenge for the industry now is where to go from here. 

“We now need to move beyond the great conversations to seek more innovative and actionable solutions to help increase the retention and participation of women in this industry otherwise the risk is that in 10 years’ time, we will still be having the same conversations and nothing will have changed.”

“If our male leaders and decision makers in this industry won’t take a lead on driving the solutions for gender diversity then who will? It doesn’t happen organically, it’s like planting a tree and hoping for the best. Real change only occurs with leaders engage in driving the agenda and pushing themselves out of their comfort zones to find those innovative and impactful solutions.”

While more male brokers appreciating the issues that women within the industry face, there is still plenty of work to do be done to up the numbers of women in mortgage broking.

“With female mortgage brokers now dropping under 27% representation in the industry for the first time, the biggest opportunity is looking at how we retain female brokers,” said Counsel. “A lot of the focus needs to be targeted at identifying and responding to the challenges that women are facing.”

“Unfortunately however, what we are still seeing is that even though industry leaders recognise and acknowledge the diversity of their customer base and the benefits that diversity brings to their business addressing the issues that continue to challenge the experiences of women in the industry is still not a priority.”

“We know that in recent years the industry has obviously been preoccupied with responding to and adjusting to life after the Banking Royal Commission and then responding to a global pandemic last year so leaders have been distracted but maintaining a status quo of inaction around addressing the challenges and barriers that women face is a real missed opportunity for the industry.”

“Key priorities that have been identified by the research report include providing more peer-to-peer support for women, helping better manage financial expectations and workload when first starting in the industry and creating a greater sense of community where women can connect and learn and grown from each other.”