Each year on the 8th of March we celebrate the achievements of women throughout the world.
Though many industries have made significant strides in achieving gender equality, the industry closest to my heart, financial services, still has some ground to cover in this respect.
The broker and mobile lender channels in particular have struggled to keep pace in the race for gender parity.
The *statistics for mortgage and finance broking reveal just on a quarter (25.5 per cent) identify as female, which is a record low for the past six years.
In our own ANZ Mobile Lending business, only 23 per cent of our approximate 150 franchised businesses are operated solely by women, yet these contain some really successful franchisees.
I spoke to a number of these leading ladies to try understand their motivations for bucking this trend. I also wanted to learn from them what ANZ could be doing on a structural level to encourage and inspire women throughout Australia to consider building their own businesses.
Women in business
Elise Williams (St Kilda, Victoria) always wanted to own her own business.
“I didn’t have a finance background but have had a passion for property and houses my entire life,” she says.
At the age of 29, Elise was ready to take the leap and be her own boss.
“The ANZ Mobile Lending franchise opportunity was really accessible in terms of set-up cost. From there, I was committed to working hard and building my own business and knew deep down that if I did put in the hours, I would get the results.”
The 2022 Franchisee of the Year, Sallie Williams, (Joondalup, WA) moved to Australia from the UK and originally started working at an ANZ branch.
“I’ve always had a passion for helping people. I love meeting people, making connections and that’s what drew me to this franchise opportunity and what will keep me here.
“No two days are the same, every customer is different and has different needs. Even after 10 years it’s so exciting to help a customer into their first home or next home,” she says.
Tammy Ritchie enjoyed a varied 22 year career with ANZ covering multiple aspects of the banking and finance sector before transferring her skills and experience to her own business (Ipswich, Qld).
“I loved the thought of playing to my strengths and providing our customers bespoke solutions coupled with exceptional service,” she says.
By offering strategic solutions and insights, Tammy ensures each customer receives the right assistance every time, and navigates the often complex world of consumer lending.
“With my career in banking, it was inevitable I would own a mobile lending business,” she says.
Why do you think some of your peers are hesitant to get into the industry?
“Some women might hesitate because of a fear of the ongoing changes in the industry,” says Tammy.
However she believes potential franchisees should gain confidence in seeing the success franchisees can achieve; and when backed by the right technology and marketing support it is an even more attractive proposition.
The fear of the unknown also rang true for Sallie who agreed fear can play a part in keeping women out of the industry.
“Many women wouldn’t risk doing it on their own without the support of their partner,” she suggests.
“You’ve got to be in a good financial position to take the risk of starting your own business and investing in a franchise. Part of owning your own business is being prepared that business will fluctuate and that can create uncertainty for many women.
“It’s understandable many might ask, How do I prepare? How do I budget? How do I sustain this?”
Elise is also in agreement on this point, however reminded us of the opportunity that exists in coaching many female customers. “I found when I first started doing this job that many women don’t take control of their own finances,” she reveals.
There is also the longstanding public perception of males performing roles in the financial sector. This has existed for years in roles such as mortgage brokers, financial planners or even accountants.
“It’s quite old-fashioned thinking that both financial matters and indeed sales of financial products are not aligned with feminine skills and values.
“Some women also feel that these opportunities lack creative flair but that’s a misconception. An ANZ Mobile Lender can be really creative in their role.”
What could ANZ Mobile Lending do to encourage more female participation?
Elise is clear. “We need to get more people talking about it… and repositioning the role from being purely a sales role,” she says. “It’s about helping people. If you’re good with people and are passionate about helping people reach their goals then this might be the path for you.”
Sallie agrees that amplifying the conversation is crucial.
“We need to keep talking about it… sharing stories, sharing successes of women who are raising families and also running successful businesses.”
There is no doubt that the ANZ Mobile Lending model can be successful, says Tammy.
“However,” she suggests, “we could complement this further by showing the autonomy it creates.’’
“This is a truly flexible career, meaning you can balance the demands of work, family and lifestyle. I can work around the needs of my family and still be accessible to customers,” she points out.
The passion, commitment and supportive attitudes on display from these franchisees, though only three of many in our network, fill me with immense pride. Hearing their stories of how they’ve navigated biased attitudes on the way to achieving success is truly testament to their resolve.
Our conversations were further evidence of the crucial role played by many females in our industry and have cemented a passion to ensure diversity in our franchise businesses across Australia, and indeed in our staff.
This article first appeared on Inside Franchise Business.