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Working in an industry traditionally ruled by men can be lonely for a woman. Not to mention arduous, especially if you’re climbing the leadership ladder, which can take several years to achieve.
But as challenging as it is, surviving and thriving in a male-dominated industry is possible. Mortgage Introducer celebrates the 65 Elite Women whose achievements, mentorship, and contributions have created a positive and lasting impact on the mortgage industry.
“There are times that I’ve questioned my decisions, but my mentors have been there to encourage me and highlight that I am going through the same trepidations they went through”
Marthar Mutinda-Scott, Mortgage Spot
All great leaders have great mentors. Marthar Mutinda-Scott, mortgage and insurance specialist at the Mortgage Spot, is one of the lucky women to have known a few mentors in her life.
“Engaging with professionals who have trodden the same road and are familiar with the challenges I face has been absolutely enriching,” the 2022 Elite Woman tells MIW. “There are times that I’ve questioned my decisions, but my mentors have been there to encourage me and highlight that I am going through the same trepidations they went through. Being able to pick up the phone and speak with someone who will nudge me on has been the ultimate respite. I couldn’t do it without them.”
Mutinda-Scott has always been good at maintaining her professional relationships, some of which have made it into friendship territory. Her tip for strengthening relationships with mentors: detach from the professional side of things for a bit and focus on making real human connections instead.
“For me, it is never all about work – meeting up for lunch or a glass of wine and talking about our everyday lives does more for me than picking brains in a boardroom,” Mutinda-Scott says.
“I’m more likely to relate with your success if I know a bit about the tribe that drives you to wake up every morning and exert so much passion and grit in what you do. Those are the conversations that build lasting relationships.”
“When you have been used to doing everything yourself, it is hard to let go and allow others to assist”
Liz Syms, Connect Mortgages
Liz Syms built her company Connect Mortgages 24 years ago on the foundation of a growth mindset. Growing her team has been a steep learning curve for Syms, and one of the hardest lessons she picked up as a leader was the art of delegation.
“When you have been used to doing everything yourself, it is hard to let go and allow others to assist,” Syms says. “I think I have gotten better at it over time. A few years ago, another business owner once told me that everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, and the key is to value the strengths and find resources to support the weaknesses. That has stuck with me, but it is still a work in progress.”
As CEO, Syms had to develop extra skills to grow her company and become the leader she aspires to be. One way she does this is by consuming management books. Reading opened up the world of business coaching for her.
“While reading, I was led to see some coaching and stumbled across a company called Vistage,” she shares. “This is a group of senior leaders in different industries who come together to learn from each other and get coaching from a group leader. In the 18 months I was with that group, I learned so much, and they are still friends today.”
At Lloyds Banking Group (LBG), Elite Woman Lynn Fielder feels supported by the firm’s colleague networks that specialise in different facets of diversity and inclusion. One of the longest-running groups is aimed at helping women unlock their full potential.
“Our culture is something we actively seek to improve on an ongoing basis,” Fielder says. “We want our colleagues to feel supported and able to bring their whole selves to work, and that is especially true for women with families and caring responsibilities who face additional pressures in their lives.”
Antonia Phillips, associate director at Teamspirit Mortgage Advice Bureau and another Elite Woman, believes education, communication, and influence are also crucial in promoting inclusion in the workplace.
“Communication is key, and asking our employees for their opinions is very important to us so that we can concentrate on the right things as a business and people team,” Phillips says. “We have adapted our job roles and adverts to ensure an open and diverse approach to recruitment, and we also ensure that DEI features on our senior leadership team agenda.”
“We also encourage men to be involved in all of these activities, so they can hear first-hand about the challenges women face in the workplace and provide additional support to LBG’s objectives in these areas. This is valuable work that women can lead and take action on, but we simply can’t do it alone," Fielder adds.
“Be confident in yourself and your own skills, know that you deserve your place at the table and pay it forward to help other women to achieve more”
Lynn Fielder, Lloyds Banking Group
There is no one-size-fits-all solution that can ensure women’s success in male-dominated industries like mortgage. But from Phillips’ point of view, success starts with reaching out to others and seeking support.
“There are real role models across this industry, and we can learn from them, listen to them and develop ourselves.”
Syms adds that it doesn’t matter whether you are running a small business or a team of over a hundred. “What we feel about our own shortcomings, wish we could do better, or the problems we are facing in our businesses, everyone feels the same,” she says. “It also doesn’t matter which industry you are in, or whether you are male or female. Leaders and managers all face the same problems and challenges, and a lot of support can be gained from opening up, sharing and learning from others in similar positions.”
That is why Fielder believes embedding inclusion in the company culture and within individual business units and teams is crucial.
“We can all be mindful of those who are in different circumstances to us and face challenges that we don’t, and it’s important to encourage an open-minded, empathetic approach in each of our colleagues,” Fielder says. “I see the energy and enthusiasm within my own teams to promote a more inclusive culture and to get as many people involved as possible by engaging colleagues in different ways.
“We’ve made some great progress, but there is still lots to do. Our female leadership needs to be more diverse and representative of the society we live in today. Be confident in yourself and your own skills, know that you deserve your place at the table and pay it forward to help other women to achieve more, both now and in the future. I’ve found having a mentor has been useful at various stages in my career – someone to bounce ideas off and who also challenges my thinking.”
To the next generation of women entering the mortgage world, Mutinda-Scott’s advice is to “be the best in everything you do and make the most of every door opened for you, and every reward given to you. No realms in this profession are out of reach for you, so consider every room you walk into lucky to have you.
“Cliché as it might sound, aim for the sun to land on the moon.”
Mortgage Introducer invited industry professionals from across the UK to nominate exceptional female leaders for the inaugural Elite Women list. Nominees had to be working in a role that related to, interacted with, or in some way impacted the industry and should have demonstrated a clear passion for their work.
Nominators were asked to describe the nominee’s standout professional achievements over the past 12 months, along with their contributions to diversity and inclusion in the industry and how they’ve given back through volunteer roles and charity work. Recommendations from managers and senior industry professionals were also taken into account.
After a thorough review of all the nominations, the Mortgage Introducer team narrowed down the list to the final 65 Elite Women who have made their mark in the industry.
1st year of MIW’s Elite Women List
143 total nominations received