Events attract hundreds of people
A series of Women’s Commercial Finance Forum events have mobilised people from across the industry to increase the visibility of women and provide support within the growing sector.
With a membership of more than 870, the WCFF is a community of finance brokers that connects women and peers from across the commercial finance landscape.
WCFF series boosts visibility of women in commercial finance
Held from April to August in Queensland, Sydney and Melbourne, the events provided opportunities for attendees to upskill, learn best practice techniques and build relationships across the sector.
Each of the three events included a panel discussion and/or presentations, covering asset finance and business and industry insights.
To better understand the drivers of gender disparity within the finance broking industry, AFG commissioned market research company re:think to survey current and former AFG female brokers and other brokers with its key markets.
Shared at the Melbourne WCFF summit, among the key findings were that only 8% of men in the Australian mortgage broking and asset finance industry believed there was a gender imbalance, compared to 43% of women.
Read next: Summits support female finance brokers
MPA asked WCFF chief of tribe Yasmine Shah (pictured above centre) to share the learnings and outcomes of the events, which attracted close to 400 attendees and a wide range of exhibitors.
The events were attended and supported by talented, highly experienced commercial brokers, who shared their insights and best practice, she said.
Participants across Sydney and Melbourne were able to meet and converse using the Pappyon app, prompting close to 1,000 conversations, Shah said. Referring to the level of connection with other attendees as a highlight, Shah said those conversations and relationships were able to continue outside of the events.
“We wanted to take that connection to the next level and bring the community together… the uptake has been amazing,” Shah said.
Attendees commended the high level of energy at the events and the high level of participation from both women and men, she said. A show of hands indicated a significant portion of women recognised the support of men in their careers and businesses, and that men were integral to their success.
MindHealth Services CEO and WCFF community lead for wellbeing Sheb Giner (pictured above left), was MC and keynote speaker at the NSW event, which included a panel discussion on going above and beyond for Australian businesses.
WCFF community lead for upskill and Pfitz Financial and Business Solutions director Sonja Pfitz (pictured above right) was MC at the Melbourne event (pictured below).
In her role at WCFF, Pfitz mentors and coaches the upcoming generation of women, working with lenders and the broking community to draw out relevant practices, skills and techniques and closing perception gaps.
Having worked within the industry for 27 years, Pfitz told MPA that commercial finance can be a tough industry for people, including women, to enter. One of the key takeaways highlighted at the Melbourne summit was the need to “make the invisible more visible,” she said.
“Women in finance (e.g. commercial or residential), are not very well publicised, which leads to unclear paths of entry into the industry, perception gaps around salary, and career options,” Pfitz said.
The summits provided a series of opportunities and initiatives to break down these perceptions, which Pfitz said ideally needed to start at secondary school level. This might include visibility at career days and empowering mums already working in the industry as advocates.
Provision of training programs, scholarships and e-books for women working at various levels, were among the other initiatives discussed.
Networking events, such as the WCFF event in Melbourne help to reidentify some of the key pillars the industry needs – such as connection, education, collaboration and innovation – and make them seen, felt and heard by attendees, Pfitz said.
Read next: Breaking down the gender barriers
Collaborating and learning at networking events provides an opportunity for individual experiences to be discussed and shared, enabling change within the industry, she said.
“The networking events are a safe environment that allow women to be open and honest in the areas where they’d like to have more knowledge and find people who do have that experience,” Pfitz said.
Networking events also help to raise the bar for client experience, enabling the sharing of information around how to approach more complex deals, she said. Bringing the client into network events is a key focus for WCFF, as it helps the industry to deliver the best possible experience, Pfitz said.
Those attending the summits were reminded why they joined the industry, that they weren’t “flying solo” and that they’ve got people there to support, nurture and encourage them, she said.
In addition to the live events, which typically attract between 100 and 150 attendees, WCFF runs lunch and learn sessions across Australia catering to smaller groups.
Further WCFF events are to be held in Adelaide and Perth over the coming months, followed by Christmas drinks from October to December.
In addition to bringing fun and energy to the industry, Shah said the events highlighted that women are capable of taking their connections to the next level and can “upskill with flair”.
She encourages women who attended the events and/or are interested in commercial finance to join the Women’s Commercial Finance Forum Facebook group, connect on Pappyon and to reach out if they need help.
“Whether you were able to attend the events or not, the fun, inspiration and the growth continues within the forum,” Shah said.
Shah also thanked all of the men who support women in the industry, the role they play and the diversity that they bring.
“I’d like to acknowledge that, celebrate [men] for that and thank them deeply … we wouldn’t be able to rise to our highest potential if it wasn’t for their support,” Shah said.
Brokers and other industry members who are interested in attending future WCFF events can contact Yasmine Shah. Questions relating to education or upskill opportunities can be directed to Sonja Pfitz.