by Marcia Davies
It is an undeniable truth that women in leadership means power in business. Over the past 50 years, a revolution has taken place as women have gained control over their careers. This is true in the real estate finance industry, as each year more women enter the workforce and many assume management positions. However, women in senior leadership positions are still hard to find. There are some, but not many. And as our industry adjusts to this changing environment, it is imperative we embrace this new reality.
Recent studies suggest that placing women in leadership positions is economically beneficial to the financial health of a company. For example, Fortune 500 companies with three or more women on their board of directors experienced a nearly 50% higher return on investments over a five-year period. Similarly, Fortune 1000 companies with female CEOs performed three times better than benchmark S&P 500 companies. Yet, in spite of such success, women make up less than 6% of the CEOs whose companies are part of the S&P 500.
While the business world is still just understanding the potential of women in leadership, there is little doubt that the overall economy has already noticed the impact of their financial decision-making. Studies have shown women make the vast majority of purchase decisions. As it relates to homeownership, single women are better at paying their mortgages than their single, male counterparts. In spite of their traditionally lower incomes, women continually pay higher down payments when purchasing a home. Therefore, industry leaders should not only support and empower women but also acknowledge them as a target market.
This October will mark the one-year anniversary of MBA’S mPower network. mPower is an online community designed exclusively for women in the real estate finance industry, providing information and celebrating achievements while creating a powerful women’s forum. What started as an informal idea has blossomed into a profound and impactful community. There are more than 1,000 women who belong to this exclusive online community; who also attend high-energy, networking events; communicate with one another; and gain access to valuable resources and information. mPower events allow women to not only grow in leadership capabilities, but also build a network with other women in our industry.
But, we cannot do it alone. We need men who hold leadership positions to advocate on behalf of women. And, when they do, it is powerful. Just recently I spoke at an event with industry CEOs where the majority of attendees were men. The topic of mPower came up and to my pleasant surprise, a former MBA chairman, who is a man, spoke up and stated how crucial diversity is to our industry. He made a passionate case for taking explicit action to enhance the role of women in the workplace and to advance diversity and inclusion overall. Thankfully, he is not alone. His comments lead to a robust, supportive dialogue within the room.
We should all remember, men who are senior leaders in our industry probably have wives, partners, mothers, sisters, and daughters who may have worked, are currently working, or are just entering the workplace. On a daily basis, they serve as role models for how best to promote inclusiveness and leadership.
Creating a space for women to advance and providing tools so they can reach their full potential must be a collective goal of our industry. There are already a number of programs, like MBA’s mPower, that provide resources for women to succeed. It is important for men and women alike to continue championing efforts toward this goal. Together we can foster an environment of equality and ensure that opportunities exist for all going forward.
Marcia Davies is Chief Operating Officer for the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA). Marcia leads MBA’s networking platform for women in the real estate finance industry, mPower – MBA Promoting Opportunities for Women to Extend their Reach. She can be reached at MDavies@mba.org.