MFAA Opportunities for Women Report

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Why are women still under-represented in our industry?

At our November Empower event, the MFAA joined us to share their 2018 Opportunities for Women Report. The report aims to generate broader industry discussion around improving the acquisition and retention of women. In this article, we summarise the issues, key insights and take-aways.

What’s the issue?

Research conducted by the MFAA through their regular Industry Intelligence Service Report series has shown the proportion of women entering the industry has been declining since 2015. Their data also shows that the total proportion of female participants in the industry has declined from 28.3% to 27.1% since September 2016.

This is the first time the female broker population has declined in absolute numbers since recording began.

Why are numbers declining?

The reasons for the declining number of women in the industry are not easy to identify. For example, the MFAA data suggests both male and female industry participants are attracted by the same personal and lifestyle factors. In both groups, the top three factors were:

  • Flexible working conditions
  • Opportunity to run their own business
  • Nature of work (helping people).

Clearly, more men than women are joining the industry and staying on to build a career, despite these key common motivators. But why?

When trying to answer this question, the MFAA data showed perception gaps and a significant difference of opinion between men and women as to the barriers for women in the industry. This suggests ‘unconscious biases’ and ‘differing perceptions’ might be preventing the identification of the relevant issues, which makes it impossible to resolve them.

What are the 4 key differences in perception?

  1. When asked about a leader’s ability to create an inclusive workplace:
    – 61% of men believe their leaders are strongly capable.
    – By contrast, only 44% of women believe their leaders are strongly capable.

    Given the MFAA research also indicates most industry leaders are male, it is easy to understand this gap in perceptions. There is clearly a huge opportunity for the industry to develop its capability for diversity and inclusion, especially in terms of leadership and representation of women.

  2. When asked if they believe women are under-represented in the industry:
    – 59% of men did not see women as being under-represented.
    – 57% of women did see women as being under-represented.

  3. When asked about the barriers for women in the industry:
    – More than 70% of men said they were not aware of any barriers.
    – Only 40% of women said they were not aware of any barriers.

  4. When asked if women have the same opportunity for development and advancement:
    – 72% of men believed women had the same opportunities as them.
    – Only 51% of women believed they had the same opportunities as men.

This data suggests a huge gap in the experiences of the broking community. It is this difference which forms the most serious barrier to understanding the issues and the need for change.

So, what can we do to support women in our industry?

The key insights uncovered by the MFAA research show:

  • There is a need for more education resources to help industry decision makers understand and support what needs to change.
  • Role models are essential drivers of behavioural change – the industry needs to communicate existing role model development initiatives more widely and seek greater investment.
  • There is a requirement for a greater variety of visible role models and peers so that women can feel more supported to take on opportunities.

Key opportunities to improve diversity and inclusion include:

  • Better communication
  • More leadership development training targeting issues like ‘unconscious biases’
  • Provide incentives for mentoring and structured career paths
  • More peer-to-peer support
  • Encourage more men to actively engage in discussion and solutions.

What’s next?

A positive aspect of the research is that both genders agree the mortgage broking industry is inclusive and there’s plenty of scope to encourage and support more diversity. The MFAA aims to use their research to make strategic recommendations to drive real change for women and other diverse professionals. We’re looking forward to working with them to affect further change in 2019 and hope to see them at another nation-wide Empower event soon.

Read the full MFAA Opportunities for Women report