There are 100 fewer female brokers in industry than there were a year ago, according to a new MFAA report, suggesting that the retention of women in this sector could be an issue of concern moving forward.
According to the second Opportunities for Women report, published by the Mortgage & Finance Association of Australia (MFAA), broker numbers increased slightly in the period October 2018 to March 2019, but the number of female brokers has dropped.
In the period October 2017 to March 2018, there were 3,779 female brokers in the industry (based on the aggregators supplying gender information), but by March 2019, this number had fallen to 3,679 – a reduction of around 2.8 per cent over 12 months. Comparatively, there were 13,172 men in the industry as at March 2019, up from 13,008 as at March 2018 (according to the MFAA Industry Intelligence Service (8th edition)).
Moreover, the Opportunities for Women report notes that there has been a faster rate decline in the number of female brokers in industry – with the majority of this reduction, 67 female brokers, occurring between September 2018 and March 2019.
This is the third consecutive period of population decline recorded for this segment since its high of 3,871 in the six months ending September 2017.
Despite the decreasing number of female brokers, the proportion of female brokers in the industry has remained relatively stable over recent periods due to a 10 per cent (or 3 percentage points) rise in recruitment. Thirty-three per cent of all brokers recruited during the period October 2018 to March 2019 were women.
Perceptions regarding barriers to entry
The MFAA sought to understand the barriers to entry for female participants in this industry as part of its Opportunities for Women report, conducting workshops with industry representatives and surveying MFAA membership database to understand perceptions and attitudes towards diversity with the goal of encouraging greater inclusion within the wider broker community.
The report intends to “generate broader industry discussion focused on the need, and the actions required, to improve the industry’s acquisition and retention of women and other diverse professionals.”
In the second edition of the report, it was found that fewer men believed the sector to be barrier-free for women than last year (59 per cent of male respondents said they did not believe there were any barriers to women joining the industry, compared to approximately three-quarters of male respondent last year).
Likewise, more women recognised that there were barriers to entry for women joining the industry (with just 34 per cent stating there were no barriers, down from 40 per cent in 2018).
According to respondents, the main barrier for women working in this industry is “unconscious belief about gender roles in the workplace”.
More than two-fifths (44 per cent) of women stated that this was the biggest barrier for women, while 18 per cent of men did (the highest proportion attributed to a specific barrier).
Women also said that “an industry culture that is not inclusive to women” was a prominent barrier (28 per cent) along with “conscious belief about gender roles in the workplace (i.e. women should not hold a position of management)” – at 26 per cent.
However, the second most commonly cited barrier identified by men was “safety concerns”, such as sexual harassment and physical safety (17 per cent). A similar proportion of women stated that this was a barrier (but this was only the fourth most commonly cited barrier).
Women were also 12 percentage points more likely than men to report that their industry experiences had not met their initial expectations around earnings, work ﬂexibility and development opportunities.
Overall, while respondents were unsure if there was one key issue the industry should be focusing on to drive greater diversity in the industry, both men and women stated that “improved education and information” was a top priority, along with targeted attraction and retention of diverse talent, and greater leadership prioritisation.
These all have a focus on improving greater diversity and inclusion within the industry to match that of the broadening of the customer demographics, the MFAA said.
As such, the Opportunities for Women program sponsors, Community Panel members and senior industry brokers identified the following initiatives as key priorities for the 2020 program:
Writing in the report, MFAA CEO Mike Felton said: “It is clear women have a divergent experience of the finance broking industry to that of their male counterparts, which goes some way to explaining the low and declining proportion of female brokers in the industry. This is a problem. Women are vital to the finance broking industry, as they bring diﬀerent perspectives and values, strengths and weaknesses that are necessary to business success…
“As our customers grow increasingly culturally and ethnically diverse, and as females continue to make the majority of financial decisions, having the ability to understand our customers becomes imperative to the performance, competitiveness and sustainability of our industry.
“Building an inclusive industry culture is not only socially responsible, but as this report outlines, also makes good business sense. It will, however, require more focus, structure and sustained engagement at every level of the industry.”
Mr Felton continued: “The findings of this report unlock the potential for greater inclusive leadership and industry culture to provide opportunities for every individual to prosper. In order to achieve growth and success, it is vital that industry leaders promote open-minded business practices and pursue cultural change through inclusive values and behaviours.
“Through their leadership and genuine interaction with issues of diversity and inclusion, our industry can meet these challenges, remain relevant and continue to grow and thrive well into the future.”
Speaking to the The Adviser, the MFAA’s head of marketing and communications, Stephen Hale, added: “As the customer base diversifies, we as an industry need to respond to these trends.
“The proven ability of the broker channel to adapt to change will continue to ensure our long-term viability as a business model.”
Find out more about some of the leading women in finance in the November edition of The Adviser magazine, out now.
Throughout the month of November, The Adviser is profiling some of the leading brokers and mortgage industry representatives in the magazine and on the Elite Broker podcast, in the hopes that - by celebrating and championing the leading women in finance - we can inspire more women to join this industry and help it flourish.
You can also read career advice from the winners of the Women in Finance Awards 2019 and see what Australia’s former and longest-serving sex discrimination commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick AO, thinks is the essence of essence of female leadership, too.
If you know a leading female broker operating in this industry, why not nominate them for a Better Business Award 2020?
The state-based awards provide a unique opportunity to celebrate the top-performing individuals and offices in the broking industry in NSW, VIC/TAS, SA/NT, WA and QLD and showcase their hard work in their local market.
Nominations close at 5.30pm on Friday (22 November), so make sure you nominate them for the Better Business Awards 2020 now!
Annie Kane is the editor of The Adviser and Mortgage Business.
As well as writing about the Australian broking industry, the mortgage market, financial regulation, fintechs and the wider lending landscape – Annie is also the host of the Elite Broker and In Focus podcasts and The Adviser Live webcasts.
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