MPA talks to three female leaders about their views on diversity
Women don't realise the opportunities and job satisfaction that a career as a mortgage broker can provide, but Liberty Financial is working to change that.
With its involvement in the MFAA’s Opportunities for Women program, as well as its own initiative for women in leadership, Liberty is leading the way in gender equality: it currently has around 58% of females in first-tier leadership positions.
Increasing the mindset around gender, Liberty has also improved its parental leave program. It now offers women 13 weeks’ full pay, and if they choose to take longer, paid or unpaid, they will continue to receive their full superannuation and accrue annual, personal and long-service leave.
On top of this, the company also offers a school holiday kids program, has refined its language on recruitment advertising, and is working with Work180, a female-positioned recruitment board.
In her role as a Liberty network sales manager working with brokers, Julianne Walsh recognises both the challenges and the opportunities. She says the reason diversity is so important is the community she and her brokers are servicing every day.
“We have many diverse cultures and people and beliefs; imagine if we only had one type of culture in the finance industry,” she says.
“It’s really important that we create that diversity or reflect that diversity back into the finance industry so we are catering to the community.”
Keen to see more women succeed in the industry, Walsh mentors and encourages them to overcome challenges they might face.
“We need to bring the balance back and get women into the industry. It all comes back to support and making sure women lead by example. We need to empower and educate them, ensuring they feel supported regardless of their circumstances,” she says.
Overcoming negative thoughts
Liberty’s Women in Leadership program includes workshops on areas like mindfulness and imposter syndrome. The group unpacks any wins or losses within the team and any issues faced, and supports them in overcoming those roadblocks.
Andrea Maffei, state sales manager for WA, SA and the NT, has a team of BDMs, including four men and three women, one of whom is currently on maternity leave. She understands first-hand the challenges of being a female in finance.
“I had personal experience in a company that did not allow for a voice; especially as a woman I felt that I wasn’t validated. I wanted to align myself with a company that was open to women and had a general culture of inclusiveness and diversity,” Maffei says.
To help other women at Liberty, she focuses on those negative voices that say, “you’re not good enough”.
“We all have that little voice in our heads, and that little voice needs to be heard and analysed. It’s important to acknowledge that little negative voice, but I always say to my team: you can visit those places, but don’t unpack your bags there. Acknowledge you have those thoughts, but then move on and understand that you are worthy,” she says.
The industry is heading in the right direction though. When attending broker events, Maffei notices more female speakers and success stories. She adds that getting more women involved starts with being aware.
“If you’re aware of it, you’ll be open to seeing the opportunities where women can be involved,” she says.
Diversity across the spectrum
Working towards gender equality is not all Liberty is focusing on. The lender also supports Pride events, religious events and recently celebrated NAIDOC Week.
Anne Bastian, Liberty’s general manager for culture and community, says it’s about encouraging people to bring their whole selves to work.
“We’ve been doing a lot of work over many years to help people be their most authentic and genuine selves,” she says. “The diversity and inclusion strategy and being open-minded and accepting of differences is just an extension of all of that and something we’d really like to continue strengthening as part of our culture.”
But while there is more acceptance and awareness, the industry still has some way to go.
“It’s a big problem that has many layers. Let’s get gender parity out there, because the moment you open that door all these other minority categories will blossom as well,” she says.
“If we think the problem is going to resolve itself, it won’t. There have to be more conversations, more coming together of committees or groups across the industry, and we need senior people in those conversations, because they’re the ones setting the tone to this.”
Looking ahead, Bastian feels positive. She expects most people want change and acceptance to continue, so more of these conversations will happen.
“It’s very exciting for the industry to believe we can transform ourselves to honour what broader social community already is. It’s a really good opportunity to get out there and be a trailblazer,” she says.