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Is sexism dead in the mortgage industry

Maria Harris

Maria Harris

23 May 2017

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It’s not often I rant about anything in the mortgage sector. I’ve worked in it for over a decade and, other than delayed trains and the occasional naff hotel, I’ve loved every minute. I’m a passionate advocate for the industry in general and a huge supporter of intermediaries in particular. But, as a half-Spanish Geordie girl who supports football, I am somewhat in the minority and have been subject to my fair share of ‘banter’ over the years. Most of it well deserved – if you choose to support Newcastle then you do leave yourself open to teasing.

I had thought that sexist comments were on the way out though. The people who work in the industry tend to be pretty obsessed with mortgages. It’s a dynamic market that is constantly subject to change; so if you’re at an event you’ll find most people talking about what’s happening to house prices or the economy or the latest regulatory update, unless it’s Friday afternoon.

On Friday afternoons, we turn into normal people and talk about what we’re up to at the weekend, usually involving some form of alcohol consumption while watching sport. So, I was slightly taken aback a little while ago when discussing my plans for the weekend. I had a rare weekend at home on my own, without husband or children, so the possibilities were endless – catching up with friends, reacquainting myself with the TV remote or maybe seeing a band in one of Newcastle’s many excellent music venues. Instead I was asked if I was “going to catch up on the cleaning”. No, really, cleaning! As in cleaning the house.

Would the enquirer have asked a man that question? On the balance of probability, I’m guessing not. Is this what my male colleagues discuss when I’m not around? Maybe I’ve missed something and weekend cleaning has become the new Netflix. Any of my friends reading this will now be sniggering as I have a well known aversion to cleaning, so much so that I have someone to do it for me, but somehow that didn’t seem to be an appropriate response to the question.

With the benefit of hindsight I can of course think of lots of retorts I could have gone back with around turning into a pumpkin at midnight, or how Mrs Doubtfire was a much better housewife than I’ll ever be, but sadly none of them made it through my initial dumbfoundedness.

When are our interactions going to be with us as individuals, irrespective of gender or anything else – whether it’s in the mortgage field or beyond? Because I can’t wait for us to have true equality and balance. The future is looking promising though, I’m Atom bank’s representative for the Women in Finance Charter and our board is already 50 per cent female. I don’t know whether that was by design or just the way it happened, but we have strong women with really cool backgrounds in some of our most senior roles.

I’m determined to make a difference to the mortgage arena, and you know what, to industry as a whole. One conference, one meeting, one conversation at a time.

Image credit: Fearless Girl Statue by Kristen Visbal New York City Wall Street - (cc) Anthony Quintano https://www.flickr.com/photos/quintanomedia