mPower survey: 75% of women mortgage professionals experience sexual harassment

"One is too many"

Each day it seems that there is another story about sexual misconduct — and the mortgage industry may not be isolated from these events.

From last year’s story that SoFi’s now-former CEO Mike Cagney and his wife June Ou both stepped down from the company following sexual harassment allegations against Cagney, to today’s report in the Wall Street Journal about alleged sexual misconduct by Las Vegas casino real estate mogul Steve Wynn.

As the #MeToo movement sinks its teeth in and rattles industry after industry, confronting a toxic culture of sexual misconduct and misuses of power, mPower, the women’s network arm of the Mortgage Bankers Association, surveyed its community members on the topic.

The voluntary survey results may, or may not, surprise you. The most startling number? Three of every four women surveyed, or 75%, said they had experienced at least one work-related instance of sexual harassment.

Here are other findings from the survey:

  • Of those respondents reporting at least one incidence of sexual harassment, 87% reported that an incident occurred while they were in their twenties, followed by 56% reporting an incident in their thirties.
  • The most frequent location of an incident was at the office and the most frequent offending behavior was inappropriate comments.
  • More than 50% of those reporting at least one incident reported inappropriate touching and just under 50% reported unwanted sexual advances.
  • Of those experiencing at least one incident, only 8% had reported an incident to human resources and only 20% ever told someone in the chain of command about an incident.
  • Respondents said that recent events were more likely to make them call out perpetrators and to report incidents to someone in command or in human resources.

In an article for MBA Insights, Chief Operating Officer Marcia Davies explained the need for the survey and the need to have a productive conversation about sexual harassment in the workplace.

“These days, much of the national conversation is focused on sexual harassment in the workplace,” she wrote. “It continues to dominate the news, from national politics to entertainment events like the Golden Globes or Screen Actors Guild awards this month. The women in mPower have been eager to discuss this issue head-on, specific to real estate finance. Ultimately, our goal is for the conversation to be productive and lead to actionable solutions.”

The voluntary survey is not scientific, she wrote, adding, “We cannot attribute the results to the broader population of women working in real estate finance. The response rate reflects the experience of some–not all women in the mPower network.”

Davies explained in the post that the survey was meant to “gain a snapshot of the experiences that members of our community have had with sexual harassment while working in the industry, attitudes towards the issue, and the impact we feel this has had on our professional development and career.”

"Some of our survey questions allowed participants to offer personal details of their incidents," Davies wrote. "There is a range of experiences and reactions, but it is clear that many women in our industry have had to put significant effort into dealing with workplace sexual harassment of themselves or their colleagues. We do not need a scientific survey to estimate how many women before we start to take action, because one is too many."

The next step? Learn how to grow from here, Davies said in her article.

"Bringing voice to this issue is so important, and we are grateful for the women in this industry who are sharing their story. The next step for the mPower community is to learn how to grow from here. How do we take the trends suggested by our informal surveys and others and turn them around? How do we proactively change corporate culture so that women, and everyone, in our industry is able to fully realize their goals as a career professional? How do we rebalance the power disparity that would prevent someone who has been harassed from coming forward?"

3d rendering of a row of luxury townhouses along a street

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