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Announcing Five Star’s D&I Champion Award Finalists

In a year of challenges, it’s all the more important to recognize excellence. This year, we will return to Dallas for the in-person Five Star Conference 2021, September 19-21, and at the event, will recognize the women who are making a difference in the industry, and making a mark on their colleagues and peers.

As we have in year’s past, DSNews is taking the chance to shine a spotlight on these professionals.

We have showcased the finalists for The Rising Star Executive Award, which recognizes young women leaders who, while still early in their careers, have demonstrated an outstanding capability to lead and drive progress.

We have introduced you to the nominees for the Excellence in Leadership Award, which recognizes women executives who have gone the extra mile to pass on their knowledge and “pay it forward” by helping guide the next generation of female mortgage professionals.

We also showcased the nominees for the Excellence in Mentorship Award, which recognizes women executives who have gone the extra mile to pass on their knowledge and “pay it forward” by helping guide the next generation of female mortgage leaders.

Today, we will spotlight the five nominees for the 2021 Diversity & Inclusion Champion Award, an honor bestowed upon those who have successfully broken barriers and helped lead the charge in developing a more diverse workplace culture.

Stay tuned to the October issue of MReport where we will reveal which of these deserving women will take home the 2021 Diversity & Inclusion Champion Award, and click here to view a list of all the nominees for the 2021 Women in Housing Awards.

Tai Pherribo Christensen
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer and Director of Government Affairs, CBC Mortgage Agency
What others are saying …
“Tai Christensen’s passion for mortgage diversity and helping underserved communities earn homeownership wealth powered her meteoric rise within CBCMA and the mortgage industry. Joining CBCMA as a Senior Underwriter in 2018, Tai was promoted the next year to Director of Government Affairs, where she has been a prominent voice in support of housing equity. She has since been named CBCMA’s first-ever Diversity Equity Inclusion (DEI) Officer and National Spokesperson for the UHOUSI Initiative. In 2020, she was made a member of the American Mortgage Diversity Council (AMDC) Advisory Board and began 2021 as chair of the Council’s Government Relations Subcommittee.”

What does this nomination mean to you and what makes you a good pick for this category?
“As a woman of color, I feel especially humbled and honored to be considered for this prestigious award. As a working mother of three daughters, I have tried to convey to them that anything is truly possible. This nomination proves to my children, and myself, that my continuing work in helping all people, including underserved and minority communities achieve the American Dream of sustainable homeownership, is making an impact within the mortgage industry. At CBC Mortgage Agency, we share the ideals and goals of equitable homeownership amongst all credit-worthy Americans. As the company’s first Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer, it is my privilege to lead the creation of a more inclusive environment within our CBCMA family that is equal parts diverse, inclusive, and compassionate. While this nomination is a great honor, I will continue my work building equitable homeownership opportunities for all individuals of diverse backgrounds.”

Katrina Jones
VP of Racial Equity Strategy & Impact, Fannie Mae
What others are saying …
“Katrina leads Fannie Mae’s efforts to collectively advance racial equity and access within the housing finance system and remove systemic barriers to safe, quality housing for underserved renters and homeowners. With more than 25 years of experience at Fannie Mae, Katrina collaborates across the company and with industry partners to set and achieve impactful long-term goals to further a more racially equitable housing finance system, such as advancing efforts to provider greater access to a wider range of financial services for underserved communities.”

What does this nomination mean to you and what makes you a good pick for this category?
“I’m honored to receive this nomination and to work at a company with such a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion. My unique role enables me to wholeheartedly drive progress toward a more equitable and diverse housing industry, which includes deepening inclusion in our own workforce, in our technology solutions, with our suppliers, and with our industry partners. As a housing advocate, I draw both on my knowledge of the mortgage industry and my personal experiences to make the housing finance system more racially equitable and accessible for current and aspiring homeowners and renters. My grandparents taught me the value and lasting impact of homeownership. Despite the lack of access, my grandparents knew that homeownership would create generational wealth, provide stability, and build their community. Today, that property reminds me of our legacy, history, and heritage. It also motivates me to advocate and help the housing industry change. I appreciate that for many low- to moderate-income families, wealth creation starts with homeownership, and I want to help make that happen.”

Sophie Kim
SVP, People & Culture, CIVIC Financial Services
What others are saying …
“Amidst uncertainty, Sophie Kim set out to break the business iron curtain by talking about everything. She took action and focused on our people—saving jobs and creating a safe space. Kim increased diversity among CIVIC, elevating females into leadership positions, resulting in a 50/50 male/female workforce. She advocated for holidays otherwise not recognized by the company, introduced anonymous employee surveys, and established a parent roundtable to discuss work/life balance during COVID—ultimately creating a powerful CIVIC Parents Video for the company that resulted in empathy and better understanding of teammates, allowing patience, flexibility and teamwork for all.”

What does this nomination mean to you and what makes you a good pick for this category?
“Both of my parents left a war-torn country to come to America. Because of all the things they endured, as a first-generation immigrant, I have a deep commitment to be successful in creating opportunities for others like the one provided for me. I try and impart that to every person at CIVIC. Everyone has their own story, and everyone has the right to be in a workplace where they have the space and freedom to do their best. So, with the thousands of stories at CIVIC, I want everyone's time here to be well worth it. We want everyone to be able to feel like they can be themselves, not a cookie-cutter perception of what a lending professional is. We embrace the unique stories of all our team members and encourage them to share them. By bringing their best version of self to mix in with all the different people, that will take CIVIC further, together. With that said, the notions of diversity and inclusion are pivotal to CIVIC’s success. This recognition by Women in Housing makes me hopeful for this outlook to spread within our industry, and to be named Diversity & Inclusion Champion would be an absolute honor.”

Melissa Stashin
President & Co-Founder, PacRes Mortgage
What others are saying …
“As a woman in a very competitive industry, Melissa teams together brilliantly with her staff to exemplify the power of a servant approach and a lead-by-example environment. She never asks anyone to do work she isn't willing to do herself. She provides the tools, training, and personal encouragement needed from a leader. It is rare to find someone in her position who is willing to put on the blue-collar hat and get to work with her team of professionals.”

What does this nomination mean to you and what makes you a good pick for this category?
“I’m moved by this nomination because in the world of awards, the Women in Housing Awards look far beyond performance as we usually think of it. Here, people are the first concern—a bold affirmation of the values that bring me to work every day. In my role as President and Co-Founder of PacRes, my most important goal is to develop a workplace culture that not only builds highly productive and satisfied employees but also one that creates opportunity and success for all the faces among us—women and men alike, of all colors, and all ways of life. I hope to be known as a passionate advocate—one who takes an uncompromising approach about matters of excellence and a no-effort-spared ethic when it comes to helping people achieve their goals. I started in the mortgage industry in 1993 and played a key role in the growth and evolution of the largest and highest-producing mortgage company in the state of Oregon. What I learned from that experience and have carried with me ever since is that to succeed, you start with dedication to those closest to you. Next, you serve your clients with relentless dedication—seeking their highest interest and earning trust by keeping a guardian mindset about their financial lives. Values drive value.”

Lynley VanSingel
SVP Learning & Organizational Development, First Guaranty Mortgage Corporation
What others are saying …
“A culture carrier and advocate for employees, Lynley VanSingel leads FGMC’s Learning & Employee Experience team by storm. Her commitment to authenticity and learning initiatives have led to a robust corporate employee experience initiative, a community partnership with CASA, and increased retention at the firm. Lynley is also a strong advocate for diversity in leadership and company transparency. Her compassionate but fierce leadership has been inspirational in the firm and throughout her over 15 years in the mortgage industry.”

What does this nomination mean to you and what makes you a good pick for this category?
“This nomination is both humbling and a challenge that I accept to continue the work of promoting diversity, inclusion, and belonging in the mortgage industry. Years ago, I deliberately chose to use my sphere of influence to curate teams that find strength in diversity. I take pride in choosing to surround myself with people who don’t look or think like me. The people I hire, promote, and advocate for are different than those that greeted me in this industry nearly 20 years ago. My desire is for people to have a voice and feel like they belong. I want them to stay with us in this industry and elevate the dream of homeownership together. I am fortunate to have found a home at FGMC, where leadership creates a space for everyone to be themselves. At FGMC, I have lent a voice to team members through advisory councils, surveys, and senior leader listening tours to tell us what they want to experience. While this work will never be finished, I am committed to holding a space where everyone can thrive and lend their voice. I hope to reside among the countless allies and advocates that promote the changing representation in mortgage for the next 20 years.”

About Author: Eric C. Peck

Eric C. Peck has 20-plus years’ experience covering the mortgage industry, he most recently served as Editor-in-Chief for The Mortgage Press and National Mortgage Professional Magazine. Peck graduated from the New York Institute of Technology where he received his B.A. in Communication Arts/Media. After graduating, he began his professional career with Videography Magazine before landing in the mortgage space. Peck has edited three published books and has served as Copy Editor for Entrepreneur.com.
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