Perception of female brokers improving, MFAA report shows

But low number of women remains a problem

Perception of female brokers improving, MFAA report shows


By Jayden Fennell

Male perceptions about barriers women face in the broker industry have improved, but mortgage professionals cannot afford to be complacent about the low proportion of female brokers.

This was the main message that came out of the MFAA’s launch of its 2021 Opportunities for Women report on Tuesday in Sydney.

More than 100 people, including leaders across the mortgage finance industry, attended the in-person event.

Jane Counsel (pictured), the MFAA’s lead adviser on the launch, has led the research component for the Opportunities for Women initiative since it first began in 2017.

“We are proud of our work and all that we have achieved over the past five years; however, we still have a way to go,” Counsel said.

Counsel said the MFAA’s research found almost 72% of men thought there were no barriers for women in the broking industry in 2017 when Opportunities for Women was established. However, this percentage had dropped and was now sitting at around 60%.

“Perception plays a part in this too, and the differences between men and women. Our research proves we are moving in the right direction,” she said.

Counsel said there were opportunities for progression for women within the mortgage industry, but the MFAA was seeing female retention numbers declining, currently sitting at 25.8%.

“This is the lowest representation of female brokers since the MFAA started the initiative,” she said. “There is still lots of positives around females within our industry. However, we need to find out why we aren’t retaining more women.”

Counsel said the MFAA had seen great shifts in male perceptions of females within the industry.

“The importance of perception is very important,” she said. “We tailor that to our own perceptions with our own experiences, not somebody else’s. We have definitely closed this gap over the last five years.”

Counsel said brokers cannot afford to get complacent on the number of females entering the industry.

“Women are seeing more visibility of other females within our industry, which is great to see,” she said. “If we don’t fix some of these challenges in the good times when business is booming and we are doing well, it will come back to bite us in the bad times. I think now is a great time to start moving forward with this issue.”

Counsel said business owners need to take control of workplace diversity, but some were not tackling the issue with urgency.

“This is not a total surprise due to the craziness of the last five years. However, now is a great time for business owners to make it a priority,” she said.

Counsel said the MFAA would shortly be introducing an information portal to its website with a range of resources covering wellbeing, inclusion, and mental health.

“We are also thrilled to announce the introduction of Women in Finance broker events, which will be held this July around the country. We also are excited to speak with economists around what women want within our industry and play a more imbalanced role – watch this space.”

Counsel thanked outgoing MFAA CEO Mike Felton for his leadership with Opportunities for Women, saying it spoke volumes of him as a person and acknowledged his contribution.

The main speaker for the Tuesday event was Sabrina Frederick, an English-born AFLW Collingwood player.

“I grew up in Brighton in England and moved to Australia with my family when I was seven,” Frederick said. “My mother was white British and my father was Jamaican and Antiguan. I was one of the only dark kids in school, which was refreshing in a sense as it opened my eyes, but made me very isolated.”

Frederick said her football career was crazy, however she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“There are a lot of optimistic people within the game, and there is so much pressure within the sport, so managing pressures is key.”

In 2020, Frederick participated as a contestant on the Seven Network’s reality program SAS Australia, where she was one of three recruits to complete the process and is to date the only female recruit to successfully pass selection.

“I learnt a lot about myself during this experience, and it was the hardest thing I have ever done,” she said. “Overall, I took something out of it for myself individually but I hope I also inspired people that it’s important to push yourself both physically and mentally.”

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