I’ve been very lucky in my career and for the most part have enjoyed a happy and fulfilling time working in an industry that I love. I don’t feel that being a woman has held me back but I have always worked hard and been fortunate to work with talented people along the way. There are many examples of successful women in the mortgage industry but there could be, and should be, more.
My first full time job was as a branch management trainee with Yorkshire Building Society. The training was excellent and I progressed quickly within the branch network. Although there were quite a few female branch managers, the more senior roles from area manager upwards were male orientated. It got to the point where I felt I had hit a ceiling and couldn’t really progress any further. I think l was too young in relation to the average age of area managers so, because I was ambitious and didn’t want to wait, I decided to move on.
The next role I took was at Southern Pacific in 2003 working in specialist lending, which was a completely different world to a building society. I took a punt and it worked out really well. I joined as a BDM and within two years I was national sales manager. It was a progressive company with a family feel and a lot of the senior managers and four out of five of my sales team were female. Many of the women that were in my team then are now in senior positions in the mortgage industry and it’s great to see them doing so well.
Opportunities for women have got better over the years although there is room for improvement. I think it is important that firms select people for their ability and your gender shouldn’t really matter. If you work for a company that recognises that and doesn’t hold you back because of your gender, you should be able to progress. If you are working for a company that does not appreciate your skills, you have to take matters into your own hands and move on.
As an industry, corporate networking events tend to be male orientated. If you look at the awards dinners the room is predominantly full of men, although in recent years there have been more female faces. There are lots of female advisers and administrators in the mortgage industry but less so at a senior management level in general.
Having said that I was managing director of V Loans, a master broker; then in 2017 I joined West One as lending sales director and became managing director for second charge mortgages in 2020. West One’s parent company, Enra, is a great example of a company where diversity is embraced. Men and women are treated equally and the executive team at Enra is one third female, which is good in comparison to many financial services firms.
One of the challenges facing many women is finding a work life balance when you have a family. With mobile phones and email at your disposal 24/7 it’s very difficult to switch off. My son gets annoyed with me if I am on my phone all the time so it’s important to discipline yourself draw a line between work and focussing on your family. But my family understands that my career is important and I have great support from them.
In summary, I think diversity is improving. We now have the Women in Finance Charter and more successful women are being acknowledged through awards. More could be done to try to attract women into financial services and firms should be committed to ensuring their gender treatment is equal in terms of career opportunities and renumeration.
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