Despite doing home lending for almost ten years, Cara Giovinazzo still faces a level of gender bias from new clients.
The owner and senior finance broker of CGIO says it can feel intimidating for young women to enter a male-dominated industry – something she is now working to change.
MPA spoke with the Brisbane broker about the biggest challenge female brokers are facing today and why she launched a mentorship program for women who want to join the finance game.
A mind block to overcome
For young female brokers, there is something of a mind block to overcome when starting out. Due to disproportionately higher numbers of men in the industry, it can feel intimidating for a female to put themselves out there.
“I think the biggest challenge is actually just the mindset that it’s a male dominated industry.”
“When you’ve got a lot of these higher more superior roles filled with men, it is really intimidating – and I think you feel like you have to prove yourself more than what a male would have to.”
She says even if the company is not portraying this, it is something that many women take on themselves.
“It is harder as a woman because you think you have to do more than the standard to get into those roles.”
“In this industry it’s come a long way over time and that’s sort of shifting but we still face those issues now.”
Overcoming false assumptions
Even when meeting new clients, Giovinazzo says she faces a level of gender bias.
“I still have clients judge me at the start of the conversation based on my appearance as a young female.”
By the end of the meeting, she says this bias gives way to reality.
“When they know I actually know what I’m talking about and I’m capable of doing my job, their perception of me will always change.”
“But I can tell that I’ve had that objection or presumption at the start that I’ve had to overcome.”
Bridging the gender gap
When it comes to building gender diversity within the industry, Giovinazzo says it’s all about building numbers from the ground up.
“I don’t think there should be roles just created for women to automatically say that a company is diverse but I think we need to have more women set up to be in positions for success.”
“If we’ve got more women that are successful in their own right applying for these senior roles, then diversity will happen naturally. But I think it’s, at the start, getting more women into the industry that’s going to change it.”
Giovinazzo has recently launched a mentorship program for female brokers as a way of bridging the gender divide.
“It’s giving them that confidence to get their foot in the door.”
“There’s a long list on all the things I take them through over the year long program to really set them up for success.”
“As the program develops and we get better outcomes, I’d like to expand that to maybe two, or condense it down to a six-month program.”
“My hope is that every one that completes the 12-month program will be offered a job at CGIO finance as well.”
Perhaps the greatest hope for the program is that other companies will see its success and adopt similar ways of boosting female numbers within the industry; starting a trend that will accelerate the process.
Advice for female brokers
For young women considering a career in finance, Giovinazzo says don’t let fear or insecurity hold you back.
“My best bit of advice is have the confidence to do it.”
“Do the training first so when you’re applying for roles in the finance industry, you’re showing them that you’ve done the legwork and you’re ready to go.”
“Don’t be afraid to reach out to other successful mortgage brokers, whether they are male or female, to ask them pointers on how they got in there, what works well for them and what they would have done at the start if they could redo it all over.”