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Lending Servicing

Unconscious bias in the workplace – what if the experts got it wrong?

An expert tells how to avoid bias, but she could be missing the point

February 15, 2017

During the Mortgage Bankers Association’s national mortgage servicing conference and expo in Dallas, one expert spoke on unconscious bias in the workplace.

During this women’s networking event, Lissiah Taylor, Comcast vice president of workforce diversity and inclusion and university relations, spoke on how to avoid bias in the mortgage industry.

She even addressed the average age of industry professionals, noting the lack of Millennials in the field.

“Unconscious behavior filters over into the workplace,” Taylor said, listing several ways this bias is seen.

Some of the bias she mentioned included 60% of CEOs are over six feet, a large margin considering those over six feet make up only 15% of the total population, women who are blond see annual salaries about 7% higher than brunets or red heads, men are promoted to management positions 50% more than women and for every increase of 1% in body weight, women earn 0.6% less.

However, Taylor explains that the mortgage industry needs to “mirror the communities that we serve.” She suggests several methods that can be taken in the work place to ensure more diversity in the mortgage industry, and less bias.

She suggested solutions such as having a diversity inclusion leader in the organization, setting goals around the talent companies want to hire, including a diverse panel in the interview process and not using the same people in that panel every time.

However, what if there’s another angle? What if mortgage bankers aren’t being biased, unintentionally or otherwise?

For the sake of giving fair warning – what I’m about to say isn’t for those who are offended easily. Actually, it is just a start to a larger conversation. I also want to point out that I am not saying bias does not exist in the work place, but simply pointing out another possibility.

Taylor points out several facts that seem to show a strong level if bias in the workplace, however facts alone do not tell the whole story. For example, she states that 60% of CEOs or leaders are over six feet tall. But is that the result of an unintentional bias, or could it be that those who fit the more “leadership look,” if such a thing exists, express a greater confidence in themselves?

When moving up in the chain, perhaps it isn’t the employers at all who are suppressing diversity in the mortgage industry, but the employees. Perhaps women don’t want to enter a field dominated by males. Perhaps women took a time-out early in their career to take care of children, and therefore are behind their male counterparts when it comes to experience.

And the “what-ifs” could continue. Simple facts about women versus men in the mortgage industry, or in any industry, is not enough to tell an entire story. It tells us what is happening, but not why.

For my part, as a Millennial woman, I have never felt discriminated against, passed up for a promotion, or like I couldn’t compete with anyone – man or woman. And if we take on this “victim” mentality, then this bias in the workplace, the growing gap between men and women, will only grow.

The answer may not lie with the employer to get rid of some unforeseen or even unintentional bias, but may lie with the employee’s confidence, or lack thereof.

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