Gender equality in the workplace at Mortgage Companies: We Must Work Harder on This

Gender equality in the workplace is still an issue in all industries, including the mortgage industry. Here is what you need to know

Gender equality in the workplace at Mortgage Companies: We Must Work Harder on This

Gender inequality continues to be an issue in workplaces across the UK in all major industries, including the mortgage industry. Recent studies, both before the #MeToo movement in 2017 and after, have produced alarming data about unequal pay and continued barriers to promotion.

The good news is that there are ways to improve gender equality in the workplace.

In this article, we will look at certain factors that contribute to gender inequality at work—as well as how to improve.

Here is a guide to gender equality in the workplace in the UK.

What are gender equity issues in the workplace?

As with any industry, gender inequality in the mortgage industry can take numerous forms—and it is not limited to unequal pay, either. Women—especially LGBTQ+ women, Black women, and women of colour—continue to face barriers, both glaring and nuanced.

Here are common gender equity issues in the workplace:

  • Unequal pay
  • Barriers to promotion
  • Bias against mothers
  • Higher burnout rate in women
  • Sexual harassment
  • Racism

Let’s look more closely at each of these gender equity issues:

Unequal pay

Unequal pay continues to be a reality well into the 21st century. In 2020, for instance, women earned 84% of what men earned for the same position in the US. When it comes to Black and Latina women, that number is even lower. In fact, it has taken 25 years for that pay gap to shrink by 8 cents US.

There are numerous reasons given for this disparity, including traditional social norms that discourage women from choosing higher-paying roles in male-dominated industries like the mortgage and finance industries. Other factors are unequal access to education and discrimination.

Additionally, women living intersectional realities, such as immigrant women and transgender women, are reluctant to negotiate pay for fear of repercussions if they do.  A 2018 study in the US found that women request raises as often as men but receive a raise 15% of the time compared to 20% of when men ask.

Barriers to promotion

Another recent study found that for every 100 men promoted to manager, only 86 women are promoted. At higher levels of management, this issue is compounded. Fewer female managers mean there are fewer candidates to promote to directorial positions and heads of department. In C-suite positions, for instance, 62% were found to be held by white men versus 20% occupied by white women, which is still more than 13% occupied by men of colour and 4% by women of colour.

Claire Askham, Head of Mortgage Sales for Buckinghamshire Building Society, said the mortgage and finance industries remain very male-dominated, which can make promotion difficult. “Trying to put yourself forward to have the same opportunities given as other colleagues that are male, that report into that same manager, can be quite challenging,” Askham explained. 

"Just around attending different meetings, attending different events, it's not giving the same opportunities to do presentations or panel debates, or just have your voice heard, I think is the biggest challenge that I've come across.”

Bias against mothers

The study found that mothers and women of child-bearing age were less likely to get a call back from hiring managers. This is even though their resumes were identical to the resumes of male applicants or women without children.

According to the study, this points to gender biases rooted in a work-family narrative where women are seen through the mother-caregiver lens. Devotion to childcare and family means women are less likely to put in long hours than men, especially for those in upper-management positions.

Higher burnout rate in women

Research suggests that, compared with men, more women experience burnout and deal with constant stress in the work environment, especially in higher-up positions.

The COVID-19 pandemic almost doubled the burnout gap between women and men. Women were more prone to accepting accommodations such as part-time positions or internal roles that derail their careers and continue to contribute to gender disparities.

Sexual harassment

A study in the UK last year found that 45% of women experience sexual harassment at work. Incidents of sexual coercion and unwanted sexual attention dropped after the #MeToo movement, which began in October 2017; however, there has been a spike in hostility toward women in the workplace. A 2019 study found that gender harassment such as inappropriate stories and sexual remarks from male colleagues jumped from 76% in 2016 to 92% in 2018.


Women of colour and women with marginalized identities are more likely to face a higher rate of disrespect and other microaggressions such as being interrupted or questioned, compared to white women. And while white employees tend to think of themselves as being allies to women of colour, less than half were found to have taken basic action such as calling out bias or rallying for new opportunities.

How can we improve gender equality at work?

Companies across all industries—including the mortgage industry—do not have to wait for society to catch up to make changes. Companies can play a critical role in promoting gender equality in the workplace today.

Here are different ways to improve gender inequality at work in the UK:

  • Transparency
  • Promotion to senior roles
  • Gender-neutral recruitment
  • Review salaries, standardize pay
  • Training on unconscious bias
  • Clarify discrimination policy

Let’s take a closer look at each to see how we can support gender equality in the workplace:


It is important that workplaces report their gender statistics transparently, which is a law for companies over a certain size in the UK. This transparency should be coupled with a clear action plan to close the gender pay gap, which should include setting milestones and targets.

There are numerous ways to improve gender equality in the workplace in the UK.

Promotion to senior roles

UK companies such as Accenture, Barclays, KPMG, and Credit Suisse UK have clearly defined interim milestones and deadlines for promoting women into senior roles so they can constantly measure themselves against their own targets. In fact, decision makers and managers are held accountable for meeting those targets.

Gender-neutral recruitment

To implement a gender-neutral recruitment process, it is important to carefully word your job advertisements. Words like cooperative and collaborative usually attract more women than men, while terms like competitive and determined have the opposite effect. Standardizing interviews, anonymizing resumes, and using a blind evaluation process will also help.

Review salaries, standardize pay

Reviewing salaries for parity between genders and races is a good way to improve gender equality in the workplace. If you are recruiting, you can set the pay range on years of experience with some wiggle room for special achievements, rather than how well the candidate negotiated their last pay package.

Training on unconscious bias

This can include educating your employees on their own unconscious bias. While it may not guarantee that attitudes will change, training can help employees understand their biases and work towards eliminating the biases.

Clarify discrimination policy

One good way to fight discrimination in the workplace is to create a clear, non-retaliatory discrimination policy that enables employees to properly comment or report on inappropriate treatment. To get the most out of this approach, it is important to make sure all employees know and understand the policy. This policy should include severe penalties for sexual harassment and discrimination.

Askham said she has seen improvements in gender equality in the workplace during her 20-year career in the mortgage industry. “I think we still have a long way to go, but I think it is much better than what it was when I first entered into this industry,” Askham added. “I do think it is changing.”

According to a recent Mortgage Introducer article, mortgage decisions are made solely or partly by women. It makes perfect sense, then, to speak with one of the best women mortgage leaders in the UK.

Have experience promoting gender equality in the workplace in the UK? Let us know in the comment section below.