Fighting unconscious bias with a conscious collaboration

by Kimberly Greene13 Feb 2019

Last summer, the Guaranteed Rate Organization of Women (GROW) decided to kick it into high gear.

The organization just concluded their first conference with a group of 15 women representing more than $1 billion in volume. They’re developing a formal mentoring program for women who are looking for extra help when it comes to increasing their production. They’ve named an education director, who will be structuring a year-long webinar series for women in both sales and operations. All of the women in Guaranteed Rate’s President’s Club are also invited to an additional workshop before the main event, with educational components, a panel discussion, and networking opportunities.

“We recognize this is a male-dominated industry, yet in sharp contrast, we find that statistically, mortgage originators are speaking to a large group of women,” said Dianne Crosby, chair of GROW. “Wouldn’t it be nice if we did a better job of creating that voice and creating that message? And within the realm of women originators, being in the minority as we are, wouldn’t it be nice [to create] a platform to encourage, mentor and collaborate?”

The aim of GROW is twofold. One is internal, to create that collaborative platform for women in order to champion for their success and make space for them to thrive at Guaranteed Rate. The other is external, to specifically reach and market to female home buyers.

In 2018, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) estimates that 18% of home purchases will come from single women households, more than double the share of single men at 7%. Combine that with the fact that nearly half of women in America are the primary income-earners in their household, and that reach becomes even more important.

“If 50% of women are primary breadwinners within couples and single women are the number one category of home buyers after couples, responding to women as a market force is a smart investment. This way, we’re aiming to serve the top two groups of home-buying decision makers,” said Lizzie Garner, executive vice president at Guaranteed Rate. “So if we made this effort and intention to make sure that we were not only targeting realtors, who are overwhelmingly women, as well as our consumers, who at the end of the day are part of a couple who is making a home buying decision or as a single woman, it was the basics of business. We can talk about doing ‘the right thing’ but truly the business part of this is that we would be targeting, and women should have an authorship in targeting women in able to say what resonates with them.”

There’s a lot of room for women originators in general to grow by connecting with the needs and voices of female home buyers as well as female realtors. Allowing women to shape that messaging and that voice could provide a significant advantage when it comes to capturing that share of the market.

If there’s a phrase that could describe GROW’s mission in a nutshell, Crosby coined it as “fighting unconscious bias with conscious collaboration.” That is, being very intentional and aware of who is being represented and who is doing the representing.

“It’s not that anyone excluded women; it’s that when you have the majority of the people in volume in numbers—not in volume of dollars—the population is mostly men, then the stories are mostly men, the pictures are mostly men, the message is kind of a masculine message, and it isn’t a voice that women relate to,” she added.

GROW began as a causal, unstructured affair, where women would have phone calls with Garner to share ideas. It wasn’t until the summer of 2018 after a top producer meeting that included only a handful of women, that Dianne Crosby and others broached the idea of doing something more concrete to directly encourage and support women at the company.

Feedback for GROW has been positive from both women and men. Being less represented doesn’t mean being less qualified, and apart from the marketing aspect of GROW, raising awareness of a conscious effort to champion for the less represented has ripple effects throughout the company. Garner said that even though she’s often one of the lone female voices on the executive team, she’s had to make more of a conscious effort in more formal mentoring and encouraging women who wouldn’t always champion for themselves in a room full of men.

Jen Morris, senior vice president of marketing at Guaranteed Rate, said that transparency and being able to discuss these issues openly can only make an organization stronger, and GROW creates the environment for women to be able to do that.

“We have to start inside of our industry to be able to recruit more people into it, more women into it,” Crosby said. “If it’s mostly men, they’re going to talk to their male buddies, but when you start to see women succeeding, then other women will be attracted, and I think that’s gradually that’s how we’re going to increase the numbers and change those ratios,” Crosby said.

Join us at the Power Originator Summit in Anaheim on April 4th for the State of the Industry Address, where influential women in the mortgage industry will discuss some of the most pressing issues facing mortgage professionals today.

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