In light of International Women’s Day and the recent Women in Finance Awards, the country is celebrating the achievements of women in traditionally male dominated industries such as finance broking.
At the 2019 Women in Finance Awards, broker Deslie Taylor took home the award for Broker of the Year for the third consecutive year.
She told The Adviser that she can attribute her success to “having a good reputation and the trust of your clients and your community.”
“I think we need to encourage women to join the industry, to not be afraid to succeed, to take risks and chase the opportunities,” Taylor said to the Adviser.
The success of women such as Deslie Taylor has been integral to the flourishing of businesses, as revealed by the recent 2019 MFAA Opportunities for Women Report.
The female economy itself has a value of 26 trillion dollars globally and women account for 85% of all purchases.
“Women are vital to the finance broking industry as they bring different perspectives, values, strengths and weaknesses that are necessary to business success,” MFAA CEO Mike Felton said in the report.
“As females make the majority of financial decisions, having the ability to understand our customers becomes imperative to the performance, competitiveness and sustainability of our industry,” he said in the report.
As outlined by Felton, women not only enjoy more authority in the workplace but also are now playing a greater role in making important decisions in the home.
The survey found that 50-75% of all financial decisions were made by women in the average household, which means that a large proportion of customers are now women.
Felton believes that because of this factor, it is not only “socially responsible” to promote female inclusion but also makes “good business sense” to enhance the experience of customers.
While it is clear that there has been a great amount of progress made in terms of gender equality, the report found there is still room for change within the industry.
Lack of Gender Diversity in the Broking Industry
Despite the fact that there has been an increase in women recruited, there has still been a decline in the number of female brokers in the industry.
From 2018-2019, there was a 2.7% decrease in the number of female brokers which means that there has been around 100 female brokers lost.
The population of female brokers was highest in 2017 when the figure reached 3,871 however this figure has been on a steady decrease ever since.
At the moment, women make up just 27% of the brokers and while the number of female brokers has declined, the propotion of men to women has remained stagnant.
Nonetheless, Renee Blethyn, the National Partnerships Manager of Suncorp, has highlighted the need to address the disproportionate number of males to females in the industry.
“Having an inclusive culture and diverse workforce leads to greater innovation, better inclusiveness to customer needs and improved performance,” she said in the report.
Biggest Barriers Faced by Women in the Broking Industry
The sparse number of women we see in the industry can attributed to a number of barriers that have been inhibited them from progressing at the same rate as their male counterparts.
According to Mortgage Professional Australia, women hold only 15% of high-level positions while the other majority of these roles are held by men.
The main roadblock identified by women has been the subconscious beliefs about gender roles within the workplace.
Other commonly recognised barriers included the lack of inclusivity within the work as well as safety concerns such as sexual harassment.
Not only do women deal with these barriers, but the report has also shown that men seem to be oblivious when it comes to these challenges.
“Overall, education and awareness about women working in the industry has increased,” Stewart Saunders, head of Broker Distribution at Heritage Bank said in the report.
However he added that “the disparity in barrier perceptions between men and women remains.”
This is backed up by the data which suggests that only 32% of men agreed with the statement that women are under-represented within the broking industry.
As well as this, 59% of men said that there were “no barriers that I am aware of” when asked what they believed to be the biggest barriers for women working in the industry.
So what changes need to be made?
There have already been initiatives that have been launched such as the MFAA’s ‘Opportunities For Women Program’, which aims to address the reasons why women are underrepresented in the industry
As a part of this initiative, the MFAA has held various workshops for sponsors and panel members to discuss the findings of the report.
The organisation is also in the process of creating a Business Case for Diversity and Inclusion and are also developing an inclusion and safety training program as well as a peer-to-peer support program where women are able to be mentored by other successful women.
While these initiatives are promising, there are still measures that individual businesses need to adopt in order to promote female inclusion.
MFAA is encouraging businesses to create clearly defined inclusion and diversity strategies which to address issues such as workplace flexibility and recruitment practices.
As well as this, the MFAA has identified the need for increased training and awareness programs for employees and has highlighted that businesses should be proactive in removing the biases towards women which remain embedded within the workplace.
It is hoped that these changes will mean that by the next International Women’s Day, we won’t be mourning the loss of more female brokers but instead will be celebrating a more diverse broking industry.
Words by Vidya Kathirgamalingam
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