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Overcome the Mortgage Gender Gap with a Hop, Step and Some Tech

Finance

Feature Photo credit: "Mortgage" (CC BY 2.0) by Got Credit

It's hard to dispute that women have a tougher time getting ahead in certain sectors than men. While there's certainly an argument that those with a strong will can succeed in anything, the stats often show that females are underrepresented or undervalued in some areas.


In recent years, one of the major talking points has been the gender pay gap. Following the publication of average hourly earnings in April 2019, we know that 78% of the country's largest companies had a gender pay gap in favour of men. That's a problem in and of itself. However, an indirect and possibly overlooked consequence of women earning less than their male counterparts relates to mortgages.

The Property Ladder Isn't Easy to Climb

"Ladder" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by treehouse1977

Anyone trying to get on the UK property ladder will know that it's tough regardless of gender. With the average house price now more than £226,000 and lenders being tighter than they once were, everyone may struggle. Something we do know, however, is that women have had it slightly tougher. In 2015, one in ten women claimed they faced discrimination when applying for a mortgage.

According to NAWRB, the biggest barrier to entry for women trying to get a mortgage is pay. With the gender pay gap meaning women have lower annual incomes, lenders often see them as less desirable candidates. On top of that, motherhood is an issue. Although unsaid, there has long been a perception that female mortgage applicants are discriminated against if they plan to have a baby. In essence, if they're likely to have a long period of time off work or working reduced hours, lenders see them as a greater risk.

Use Every Tool Available

As we know from other walks of life, becoming a mother shouldn't exclude you from anything. However, in the cutthroat world of finance, these types of issues still exist. With that being the case, you need to know your options. Today, there is more information and resources out there than ever before. Simply knowing what a lender offers can help you improve your chances of being accepted for a mortgage. For example, Coventry Building Society is rated as a more consumer-friendly lender than most.

As outlined by online broker Trussle, Coventry mortgage customers had fewer complaints compared to other lenders. The site says that, between July and December 2017, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) upheld complaints from just 0.1% of Coventry customers. That's significantly lower than the national average of 0.4%. Although that doesn't mean you're more likely to be approved for a mortgage by Coventry Building Society, it does suggest the company has a desire to be a friendly lender. This, in turn, could give you a better chance of getting the money you need.

Beyond making your own assumptions, mortgage calculators are now more advanced than ever. By using sophisticated algorithms, brokers can process live data. The benefit of this is that the calculators can make suggestions and continually refine them. Taking into account lending rates, approval rates, house prices and more, the software makes it easier to find a suitable deal in the moment. Again, this technology doesn't guarantee you'll get accepted. But any time you can get an edge, you should take it.

​4 Min Read
Business

Please Don't Put Yourself On Mute

During a recent meeting on Microsoft Teams, I couldn't seem to get a single word out.


When I tried to chime in, I kept getting interrupted. At one point two individuals talked right over me and over each other. When I thought it was finally my turn, someone else parachuted in from out of nowhere. When I raised and waved my hand as if I was in grade school to be called on (yes, I had my camera on) we swiftly moved on to the next topic. And then, completely frustrated, I stayed on mute for the remainder of the meeting. I even momentarily shut off my camera to devour the rest of my heavily bruised, brown banana. (No one needed to see that.)

This wasn't the first time I had struggled to find my voice. Since elementary school, I always preferring the back seat unless the teacher assigned me a seat in the front. In high school, I did piles of extra credit or mini-reports to offset my 0% in class participation. In college, I went into each lecture nauseous and with wasted prayers — wishing and hoping that I wouldn't be cold-called on by the professor.

By the time I got to Corporate America, it was clear that if I wanted to lead, I needed to pull my chair up (and sometimes bring my own), sit right at the table front and center, and ask for others to make space for me. From then on, I found my voice and never stop using it.

But now, all of a sudden, in this forced social experiment of mass remote working, I was having trouble being heard… again. None of the coaching I had given myself and other women on finding your voice seemed to work when my voice was being projected across a conference call and not a conference room.

I couldn't read any body language. I couldn't see if others were about to jump in and I should wait or if it was my time to speak. They couldn't see if I had something to say. For our Microsoft teams setting, you can only see a few faces on your screen, the rest are icons at the bottom of the window with a static picture or even just their name. And, even then, I couldn't see some people simply because they wouldn't turn their cameras on.

If I did get a chance to speak and cracked a funny joke, well, I didn't hear any laughing. Most people were on mute. Or maybe the joke wasn't that funny?

At one point, I could hear some heavy breathing and the unwrapping of (what I could only assume was) a candy bar. I imagined it was a Nestle Crunch Bar as my tummy rumbled in response to the crinkling of unwrapped candy. (There is a right and a wrong time to mute, people.)

At another point, I did see one face nodding at me blankly.

They say that remote working will be good for women. They say it will level the playing field. They say it will be more inclusive. But it won't be for me and others if I don't speak up now.

  • Start with turning your camera on and encouraging others to do the same. I was recently in a two-person meeting. My camera was on, but the other person wouldn't turn theirs on. In that case, ten minutes in, I turned my camera off. You can't stare at my fuzzy eyebrows and my pile of laundry in the background if I can't do the same to you. When you have a willing participant, you'd be surprised by how helpful it can be to make actual eye contact with someone, even on a computer (and despite the fuzzy eyebrows).
  • Use the chatbox. Enter in your questions. Enter in your comments. Dialogue back and forth. Type in a joke. I did that recently and someone entered back a laughing face — reaffirming that I was, indeed, funny.
  • Designate a facilitator for the meeting: someone leading, coaching, and guiding. On my most recent call, a leader went around ensuring everyone was able to contribute fairly. She also ensured she asked for feedback on a specific topic and helped move the discussion around so no one person took up all the airtime.
  • Unmute yourself. Please don't just sit there on mute for the entire meeting. Jump in and speak up. You will be interrupted. You will interrupt others. But don't get frustrated or discouraged — this is what work is now — just keep showing up and contributing.
  • Smile, and smile big. Nod your head in agreement. Laugh. Give a thumbs up; give two! Wave. Make a heart with your hands. Signal to others on the call who are contributing that you support and value them. They will do the same in return when your turn comes to contribute.

It's too easy to keep your camera turned off. It's too easy to stay on mute. It's too easy to disappear. But now is not the time to disappear. Now is the time to stay engaged and networked within our organizations and communities.

So please don't put yourself on mute.

Well, actually, please do put yourself on mute so I don't have to hear your heavy breathing, candy bar crunching, or tinkling bathroom break.

But after that, please take yourself off mute so you can reclaim your seat (and your voice) at the table.