While there is no gender pay gap in the mortgage broking industry, unlike financial services more broadly, the proportion of women has been on the decline, according to research from the MFAA.
An ongoing research project led by Jane Counsel on behalf of the Mortgage & Finance Association of Australia (MFAA) has uncovered significant differences in perceptions between men and women around diversity.
According to the report, this could shine a light on why the proportion of female brokers in Australia has fallen from 28.3 per cent in September 2016 to 27.1 per cent of brokers in March 2018.
For example, the MFAA’s Opportunities for Women Stage 1 report revealed that 61 per cent of men said broking industry leaders are “strongly capable” of creating and supporting inclusiveness, compared to just 41 per cent of women.
Further, 72 per cent of men indicated that they see no barriers to entry for aspiring women brokers, while only 39 per cent of women felt the same way.
Women aged 58-plus were less likely to see barriers or think there was a lack of representation of women in the industry.
Additionally, 22 per cent of male respondents said they believe that women are underrepresented in the broking industry, versus 57 per cent of women who consider this a significant issue.
Men were also more inclined to agree that there is sufficient peer support for women, with 57 per cent expressing this view compared to 32 per cent of women.
Speaking at a launch event for the report, Ms Counsel noted that 39 per cent and 41 per cent of men and women, respectively, were unsure about this, which suggests there is a “massive opportunity” to “shift bystanders into advocates”.
The perception gap was also apparent when it comes to views on supportive mentors and peers.
More than half (57 per cent) of men indicated that they believe there are sufficient sponsors and mentors for women in the broking industry, compared to 32 per cent of women.
“Younger men were also more likely to agree with women that there [is] a lack of diverse sponsors and mentors in the industry. So, this is not just an issue for retaining and attracting female talent, this is also an issue and an opportunity for continuing to attract and retain younger male talent to this industry,” Ms Counsel said.
“The other consistent comment that was coming out of the written feedback is there is not enough visibility of existing mentors and sponsors.”
The research also questioned whether there was enough promotion of successful diverse role models in the broking industry, finding that nearly 70 per cent of women have not been exposed to diverse role models.
“When women can see other women [with] a diversity of style and experiences succeed in this industry, that actually changes the perceptions about what’s possible,” she said.
However, given that brokers are paid a commission, rather than a salary, Ms Counsel noted that there was no gender pay gap in the industry.
“You can earn as much money as you want to make in this industry. There are no barriers around that; it’s totally up to you as a broker,” she said.
“You don’t see that in other industries, and that is a really unique selling value proposition that I think is not being communicated externally.”
What attracts women to broking
If the mortgage broking industry wants to “move the dial”, it’s important to “unpack the ‘why’” and create a “sense of urgency around the ‘why’”, according to Ms Counsel.
She said the top three things that attracted respondents to a career in broking are:
- flexible working conditions
- the ability to run your own business
- the nature of the work
According to Ms Counsel, the reason that gender disparity remains a problem is because in Australia, people are “throwing tame solutions at it”.
She said that the thinking often revolves around offering one-off training programs, without addressing cultural influences within the company.
It’s important for leaders to recognise “the power of [their] shadow”, Ms Counsel said, adding that leaders often don’t recognise that the biggest drivers of cultural change in an organisation is “not [their] espoused values, not the visible artefacts that you see around brands”. Rather, it is the behaviours of leaders that influence the way the rest of the organisation behaves.
Ms Counsel believes part of the problem, and also the opportunity, is that influencers in successful businesses “are at the other end” prioritising other problems.
“Established businesses are doing really well; this is not necessarily a priority for them. And they’re the demographic that we really want to attract and have a conversation with and say, ‘it’s time to get engaged around this, because if you want to build a sustainable industry, we need to actually solve this now’,” she explained.
“We can’t keep creating solutions for culturally, age, gender diverse clients if our decision-makers do not reflect that audience.
“There's a business imperative around getting this right as well.”
A shift in mindset is also needed, as well as lifting complacency around action, she said.
“I think there’s a piece around getting men to recognise they’re part of the solution, not part of the problem. Changing that mindset will engage men in a very very different way,” Ms Counsel said.
Other preliminary recommendations from the MFAA to improve gender diversity in the industry include providing more leadership development training to target issues such as unconscious bias, providing incentives for mentoring and structured career paths, providing more peer-to-peer support, and promoting more case studies of women who successfully developed a career in the industry, among others.