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Opinion by Annie Kane - April 6, 2022

Female broker representation drops to new low

Just a quarter of all brokers are women, new MFAA stats show, the lowest proportion observed for the past six years.

Despite a growing number of women joining the mortgage broking industry, the proportion of female brokers in industry has dropped to a new record low, the Mortgage and Finance Association of Australia (MFAA) has found.

According to the 13th edition of the MFAA’s Industry Intelligence Service Report (IIS) – which draws on data supplied by 11 leading aggregator brands for the six-month period of 1 April 2021 to 30 September 2021 – just over 25 per cent of brokers were women.

While only eight aggregators provided gender-specific data (one fewer than in previous IIS reports), the weighted average found that the female proportion of the broker population is continuing to fall.

This proportion (25.6 per cent) marked the lowest proportion of female brokers since the association started collecting this data (in 2015). However, the number of women in industry had grown marginally on the previous record low (set in the prior period; October 2020 to March 2021) to 3,249 women – the second-lowest number observed.

The data continued to show a general trend of decline, with the proportion of female brokers having been at its peak six years ago. Indeed, in the six-month period ended September 2016, the proportion of female brokers in the industry was at its peak of 28.3 per cent, whereas by September 2021, this number had fallen to 25.6 per cent.

The 13th IIS edition showed that the decline had accelerated recently, with the proportion falling by more than 5 per cent year-on-year (or 1.5 percentage points, from 27.1 per cent as at September 2020).

Interestingly, however, the report revealed that a growing number of women are being recruited into the industry.

The IIS report shows that the number of new female recruits has continued to increase, as has the number of new male recruits, when compared to the previous periods.

Year-on-year, the number of female recruits grew by 68 people to 480 women as at September 2021 (a 16.5 per cent increase). The total female recruitment figure of 480 women is the largest number recorded since September 2017.

When compared to the previous IIS report (covering the six-month period ended March 2021), the number of female recruits grew by 60 or 14.29 per cent.

Meanwhile, male recruits increased by 104 people to 1,096 (up 10.48 per cent) year-on-year while male recruits increased by 123 or 12.64 per cent on the prior period.

As such, it appears that the issue relates to retention of female brokers, rather than issues with recruitment.

The chief executive of the MFAA, Mike Felton, noted that the report has “disappointingly” shown that the proportion of female brokers had dropped from its already low base.

“While the number of female brokers increased slightly during the period, the proportion of female brokers in the overall broker population has not seen the same increase indicating that there is clearly a lot more work to be done to increase female participation in our industry,” Mr Felton said.

The association has been looking into the reasons why women remain under-represented in the mortgage and finance broking industry, including by working on a range of initiatives flagged in its annual Opportunities for Women report.

While the MFAA diversity and inclusion initiative found that the COVID-19 pandemic had exacerbated the issue of female retention in the broking space, other perceived barriers when it comes to women’s participation in the industry include both conscious and unconscious beliefs about gender roles.

For female respondents to the Opportunities for Women report 2021, the top three barriers for women’s participation in the industry were unconscious beliefs about gender roles in the workplace; conscious beliefs about gender diversity roles; and safety concerns.

Male respondents perceived that unconscious beliefs about gender roles in the workplace, safety concerns, and lack of industry experience and expertise were the top three barriers for women.

When asked by The Adviser what could be done to encourage more women into broking earlier this year, several leading female figures suggested that “calling out behaviours that are not inclusive of women” as well as better catering for women wanting to raise families and “creating structured pathways” to attract and retain more women into the industry would be beneficial.