Throughout a barnstorming year for the Canadian mortgage industry – one in which the task of handling record mortgage volume has collided with the ongoing challenges of the pandemic – the performance of its top female members has been nothing short of extraordinary.
The new reality foisted upon mortgage professionals required them to adjust to digital interactions with clients and colleagues while also navigating an increasingly complex landscape of house price increases, tightening lending restrictions and higher qualifying rates.
Yet the 82 women who made this year’s Women of Influence list rose to those challenges, continuing to set a strong example for their counterparts in the industry by excelling in such a frenzied market.
Not only that, but many of these women have distinguished themselves over the past year through superb management and stewardship of their companies in such a trying time, making sure that the well-being of employees and colleagues was top of mind during a gruelling pandemic.
The mortgage industry is strongest when it’s diverse, inclusive and welcoming, and the achievements of the leading women in this space over the past year are clear proof of why it’s so important to have as many influential female voices at the table as possible. By rising to the top and providing a shining example for colleagues and clients alike, this year’s Women of Influence have demonstrated that the industry is home to plenty of strong, motivated and inspirational women – and that it’s all the richer for it.
Leading by example
Across the 2021 Women of Influence, one of the most common qualities was strong leadership – particularly during a year that presented more than its fair share of challenges. That leadership often took the form of providing exceptional support, guidance and mentorship to colleagues and clients when it was needed most.
“I haven’t been in this industry a full year, after switching [from] a 22-year-long career. Sometimes I feel, ‘Can I really do this?’ and then I talk to Carmell and I know I can,” said a colleague who nominated TMG Saskatoon’s Carmell Jorgensen. “With her positive attitude, friendly demeanour and helping hand, she’s the go-to for everyone, as her door is always open.”
Community Trust’s Tanya Lucente was also praised for being a constant inspiration to colleagues. “[She’s] a leader at her job, and all her peers look up to her for guidance and referral,” her nominator said. “She takes initiative in completing all her tasks and takes the extra step in ensuring client needs are met and delivered.”
Rakhee Dhingra, CEO and broker at Mortgage Savvy and a member of the judging panel for this year’s Women of Influence list, says the strong guidance and mentorship displayed by the women on the list is an indication of their innate leadership qualities.
“Women are natural leaders due to their empathy and resilience and naturally have the ability to build meaningful connections,” Dhingra says. “They’re strong and can adapt quickly to any situation. It’s so great to see so many powerful and influential female leaders in our industry who can continue to inspire future female leaders.”
Michelle Campbell, principal broker and owner at Mortgage District, says support and guidance from fellow women is essential to inspire and encourage future generations of female leaders in the mortgage industry.
“There is benefit from collaboration,” she says. “It’s paramount for women to support one another as the next generation of female mortgage professionals have a point of reference. Being an established pillar within the industry allows for continued guidance and mentorship for all women.”
Campbell recommends that women seek out other women in leadership and ask to be mentored to maximize their potential for career advancement in the industry. She also advises women to make the most of networking opportunities.
“Get involved in industry associations so that [your] voice can be heard – and continue to create platforms within the industry that support and provide advancement of women,” she says.
Taking the plunge
Exceptional entrepreneurship was another common thread among this year’s Women of Influence. Brite Mortgage’s Leah Zlatkin was lauded for “building a brokerage from the ground up in less than 12 months” – no small feat during the COVID-19 pandemic. Multiple survey respondents highlighted the massive amount of work Zlatkin put into that achievement.
“When she told me she was creating a brokerage, I wasn’t surprised,” one of her nominators said. “She is motivated, organized and loves helping others reach their potential.” Another described Zlatkin as an “amazing educator and coach” who provides mentorship and constant emotional support for her team.
For women in the mortgage industry, taking the plunge and establishing a thriving business can be a daunting task – but it can also be a hugely rewarding one.
“Take the risk,” advises Carmen Costa, team lead and mortgage broker at Axiom Mortgage Solutions. “It’s very important to never be intimidated and to just go for it. You set the example for others who are entering the industry. It’s key to do that – for all of us to take the risks that we need to take.”
Agents of change
A commitment to diversity and inclusion is another hallmark of this year’s Women of Influence. Many winners have been drivers of positive change in the mortgage industry, helping to deliver a more representative, equitable landscape for all.
“As a woman of colour, she has never been afraid to push boundaries,” one respondent said of First National’s Anne Regan. “Her own career is a testament to her ability to trailblaze and inspire other women to achieve their best. She’s a firm believer in fairness and equity and has openly advocated for equity within hiring practices and maternity policies.”
Costa believes the diversity of the winners, and the number of outstanding female executives and entrepreneurs in the industry, is a sign that the stereotype of the mortgage industry as a typically male-dominated arena is rapidly transforming.
“I think it’s time to embrace change,” she says. “There are going to be a lot of changes in the next couple of years – and whether you’re male or female, you need to embrace it in a positive manner.”
To compile the 2021 Women of Influence list, CMP encouraged mortgage professionals nominate outstanding female leaders from across the industry, with a particular focus on their achievements and initiatives over the past 12 months. Respondents were asked to identify their reasons for selecting their nominee as a Woman of Influence, including professional accomplishments and contributions to the industry, as well as their commitment to diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
The final Women of Influence list was selected by a judging panel made up of industry leaders and previous Women of Influence, including:
• Christine Xu, Moneybroker Canada
• Rakhee Dhingra, Mortgage Savvy
• Rena Malkah, CYR Funding
• Mark Hart, NCompass Financial
To avoid any potential conflicts of interest, self-voting and votes for a judge’s own organization were voided by the CMP team.