The disparity between men and women in leadership positions and compensation is one of the most pressing issues facing the financial services sector today.
Despite broad recognition of the importance of tapping into the talents and perspectives of female executives, gender imbalance continues to plague the financial services industry, according to “Women in Financial Services 2016,” a global study sponsored by Marsh & McLennan Companies. The research cites the challenges faced by companies seeking the “right recipe” to create more opportunities for women’s advancement.
Contributors to the study agree that improving workforce gender diversity is not just a “nice thing to do” but a commercial imperative as well.
Ocwen, a leading mortgage servicing company, is going beyond talk to meet the challenge head-on. One of only a handful of companies in the mortgage banking world with a female board chair, Ocwen committed time and resources to its diversity and inclusion strategy by launching its first company-wide affinity group, the Ocwen Global Women’s Network (OGWN), in January.
“We are fully committed to improving opportunities for women across our global workforce and ensuring balanced gender perspectives are well-represented at all levels of the company,” commented Ron Faris, Ocwen’s CEO. “We launched OGWN as a combination sounding board for business insights, learning platform, and networking forum to support our corporate focus on diversity, inclusion, and talent development.”
OGWN provides members with an environment that promotes mentoring, professional development, workplace flexibility, and representation of women at all levels. The group is a platform for sharing information and ideas and accelerating employee skills and knowledge through networking.
“One of our most critical success factors is the active commitment of our senior leaders, starting with Ocwen’s Board Chair Phyllis Caldwell and Chief Executive Officer Ron Faris,” said Toni Harrigan, Ocwen’s Chief Market and Credit Risk Officer and one of the executive co-leaders of OGWN.
“Both Phyllis Caldwell and Ron Faris have spoken at our group meetings, but more importantly, they have spent time listening to the concerns of our team members,” Harrigan added. “Their participation fosters a constructive dialogue through which we can help our employees confront real issues they encounter in our workplace.”
The group is open to all Ocwen employees worldwide. Already, OGWN’s registered membership, including men and women, is more than 10 percent of the company’s global full-time workforce.
“Having this forum in place and available to all creates a platform for team members at every level and in every location to collaborate and contribute to making our company better,” commented Lola Oyewole, Ocwen’s Director of Human Resources and a founding member of the group
OGWN is organized at the regional level. Educational and networking activities are planned and carried out in each corporate location at least once a quarter. The programs range from informal coffee sessions to panel discussions with Ocwen executives and external speakers, including internationally recognized experts like Dr. Lois P. Frankel, a bestselling author and executive coach in women’s leadership development.
“For a company like Ocwen, with employees located around the world, OGWN serves an important role in bridging cultural barriers and helping executives appreciate the unique needs of our female team members located in places like India and the Philippines,” said Diksha Dutt, VP Customer Care Center, who heads up the international arm of OGWN. “The more our senior executives understand how culture influences workplace behavior, the more receptive they will be to our locally generated ideas.”
In observance of International Women’s Day in March, OGWN organized events across the globe, including panels of women entrepreneurs and industry stalwarts sharing their journeys to success and their approaches to breaking gender stereotypes. Ocwen board members Phyllis Caldwell and Jacques Busquet were part of the conversation.
Barbara Holmes, Director of Ocwen’s Internal Review Group and OGWN co-leader, is already starting to see the benefits of OGWN participation come through in the day-to-day lives of employees. Since January, 50 percent of the leadership promotions at director and above level have been females in the U.S., while 25 percent of the employees hired into leadership positions at director and above were females in the U.S. Additionally, 50 percent of hires into senior manager roles in Asia Pacific have been females.
“We are confident that this initiative will empower our female co-workers to take on more responsibility and build out their skills and expertise with greater confidence,” Holmes said. “At the same time, the participation of senior executives will contribute to a culture of greater understanding of the unique needs and challenges of our female employees, especially in overseas offices.”