There's only one way to get an organization’s attention when it comes to sexist behavior, says broker Laura Martin
Laura Martin, COO of Canada’s largest private lending brokerages, had some harsh words for disgraced AIME chairman and founder Anthony Casa concerning his recent sexually explicit remarks about the wife of Quicken Loans executive vice president Austin Niemiec.
“It is the epitome of old boy’s club bully tactics in the boardroom and toxic masculinity in a leadership role,” Martin says. “It is categorically misogynistic.”
Martin sees Casa’s words as exemplifying a tendency among some men to objectify women and use them as proxies to attack other men.
“He is weaponizing the objectification of women against his competitor. It’s so disgusting on so many levels. It was not an attack on [Niemiec’s] character. It shows [Casa] is a misogynist and has disdain for women.”
Beyond even this event, Martin, who is both COO of Matrix Mortgage Global and herself an originator, sees the incident as illustrating a wider pattern of behaviour in the industry itself, and in business more widely.
“The fact of the matter is that these conversations happen all the time on the golf course or after cigars,” Martin says. “His mistake was recording it and sending it out.
“Meetings still take place at strip clubs. Women are still objectified on every level. We exist within an industry that is permissive of these kinds of bully tactics, and it needs to be swiftly and decisively condemned by firing him.”
Perhaps even more telling, says Martin, is the lack of willingness of men in the business to give women an opportunity to have a real voice, a seat at the table, and some meaningful input.
She draws a parallel with the recent events at Ubisoft, the videogame company currently in the spotlight over allegations of widespread sexual misconduct and a misogynist culture that dealt with complaints by ignoring them. Martin says tech and financial services have a lot in common, including a dearth of female representation, particularly at the top, which gives rise to a culture of toxic masculinity because it goes unchallenged.
“There’s no woman to blow the whistle and tell them they can’t say that. Without more women at the top we’re going to continue to see this unethical and childish behaviour. If there is one woman on a board of 10, you can bet she will get railroaded, cut off, and talked over,” she says.
An action that has won Martin’s approval was taken by former AIME sponsors Flagstar Bank, Plaza Home Mortgage and Caliber Home Loans: All withdrew their support of the association in the wake of Casa’s comments. This display of corporate accountability, Martin says, represents the power to ensure such incidents don’t recur, for a very simple reason.
“Money talks,” she says. “A corporate response that demonstrates that you aren’t misogynist is what is required. It is not enough to say we don’t agree with [what happened] – you demonstrate that by pulling sponsorship.”