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Recognizing the Industry’s Trailblazing Women Leaders

The Five Star Institute is less than a week away from celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Five Star Conference & Expo, set for September 18-20 at the Hyatt Regency Dallas.

At the event, Five Star will host the 12th Annual Women in Housing Leadership Awards event, recognizing the achievements of remarkable businesswomen whose contributions continue to impact the housing and mortgage servicing industry. The program will include a special keynote presentation, brought to you by Auction.com, featuring the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Assistant Secretary for Housing and Federal Housing Commissioner, Julia R. Gordon. Following the keynote will be the highly anticipated “Inside the She-Suite” discussion led by Wells Fargo's Head of Home Loan Servicing, Ann Thorn, that features the industry’s top-ranking female executives addressing the challenges and successes of breaking through the glass ceiling and into the corner office.

Earlier, we introduced you to the five finalists for the Rising Star Executive Award, an honor recognizing young women leaders who, while still early in their careers, have demonstrated an outstanding capability to lead and drive progress.

Today, we will introduce Five Star’s finalists for the 2023 Leadership Award, a distinction that recognizes transformative women leaders who have built diverse, high-performing teams; developed business solutions that impact homeownership across the industry and nation; and have worked to empower and promote women in C-Suite and leadership positions.

Congratulations to the following five finalists on being recognized by their peers for Five Star’s 2023 Leadership Award:

Nickalene Badalamenti-Kalas
President and CEO
Five Brothers Asset Management Solutions
What People Are Saying
“Nickalene Badalamenti-Kalas (Nickie) has served as Five Brothers’ President and CEO for eight years, driving the company’s continuous growth and prosperity. Nickie’s unwavering support of women and minorities has been instrumental in the company’s remarkable achievements. Currently, 72% of the company’s staff are women, while the executive team comprises 77% women and minorities. Nickie’s dedication to diversity and inclusion extends to the highest levels of decision-making. Five Brothers is a Certified Women’s Business Enterprise, distinguishing it as a solely women-owned and privately-owned field services company in the servicing industry.”

What This Nomination Means to Her
“I am honored to be recognized as a 2023 Women in Housing Leadership Award finalist. Over the span of my 34-year professional career, I have been privileged to receive guidance from accomplished women who skillfully melded technical expertise with impactful communication. I take immense pride in upholding this legacy by championing the cause of women and minorities in an industry largely dominated by men. I firmly believe in the incredible power of diversity, which brings forth a tapestry of strengths that fuel innovation and collaboration. These qualities remain at the forefront of my efforts within my own organization, as I continuously strive to nurture an environment that embraces and celebrates diversity.”

Jane Mason
What People Are Saying
“Clarifire, a 100% owned, WBENC, MBE corporation named for its pioneering mortgage fintech application CLARIFIRE, is an oasis of diversity in a heavily male-dominated tech industry. Founded by Jane Mason, who overcame her own hurdles to become a mortgage servicing fintech leader, Clarifire boasts a staff that is 40% female—almost unheard of for a tech company. Jane also spends countless hours serving as a mentor, role model, and promoter for women’s advancement in housing.”

What This Nomination Means to Her
“As the founder and CEO of Clarifire, being named a finalist resonates deeply with the foundational values of Clarifire and my passionate belief in fostering a more diverse and inclusive environment within the mortgage technology sector. My own journey in the industry included challenges, self-doubt, and uncertainty. Yet I held fast to the conviction that diversity is not just a box to be checked but essential for innovation and growth. When I founded Clarifire, I envisioned and created a culture where every voice mattered and every idea was valued, irrespective of one’s gender or background. Calling every employee at Clarifire an ‘innovator’ symbolizes our collective commitment to pushing boundaries, questioning norms, and creating solutions that make a meaningful difference in other people’s lives. Being named a finalist for this award is validation that we’re pursuing kindness, openness, and innovation the right way and reaffirms my commitment to championing women’s advancement in housing and beyond. It’s also a reminder that our work is far from over.”

Maria Moskver
What People Are Saying
“Cloudvirga is truly transforming digital mortgage. Its cloud-based, scalable platform offers POS solutions for retail and wholesale lenders. Cloudvirga’s technology automates tasks traditionally performed by back-office operations staff, which radically cuts costs and improves the customer and loan officer experience to deliver an authentically digital origination process. Cloudvirga is committed to making a difference. Its core values are to be helpful, visionary, resilient, and an owner. Cloudvirga prioritizes the well-being of its personnel, processes, and technology, recognizing the importance of nurturing a supportive, diverse workplace that fosters growth and development. The company is dedicated to championing women and diversity. Under the visionary leadership of its female CEO, Maria Moskver, over 26% of Cloudvirga’s full-time staff is comprised of talented women, and 43% are minorities. The diverse firm is committed to streamlining costs and empowering people to achieve their dream of homeownership, fostering a more equitable, inclusive society for all.”

What This Nomination Means to Her
“We are proud of our diversity statistics at CV—47% minorities and 30% female—continuously working to improve them. As a female leader in technology, I understand barriers for women in STEM and the value a diverse team plays in innovation, so our organization reflects that diversity, working together to achieve a common goal. My volunteer efforts also reflect my passion for creating opportunities for people from various backgrounds.”

Dr. Cheryl Travis-Johnson
VRM Mortgage Services
What People Are Saying
“VRM Mortgage Services, a certified minority-owned business, embodies the spirit of the Diverse Ownership Award through its relentless dedication to inclusion and diversity. With 50% of our leadership positions held by women, we showcase the power of balanced gender representation in decision-making roles. Furthering our commitment, we actively collaborate with vendors encompassing women-, minority-, disabled-, veteran-, and LGBT-owned businesses, fostering an ecosystem of diverse perspectives.”

What This Nomination Means to Her
“Being nominated for the Leadership Award at the Women in Housing Awards by the Five Star Institute is a deeply meaningful recognition to me. This nomination signifies the acknowledgment of our relentless commitment to fostering inclusivity, empowerment, and gender diversity within the housing industry.

This nomination is not just about acknowledgment but also a reminder of the responsibility we bear in driving positive change. It’s an encouragement to continue championing women’s leadership, nurturing talent, and creating an environment where everyone’s voice is heard and valued. This nomination propels us to persist in our mission of promoting inclusivity in the housing sector and serves as a motivating force to strive for even greater achievements in the future. It serves as a testament to the transformative impact of collaborative and forward-thinking leadership, illustrating that diversity isn’t just a checkbox but an essential ingredient for innovation and success.”

Robin Wright
Managing Partner
Wright, Finlay & Zak, LLP
What People Are Saying
“After becoming one of the first female managing partners of a full-service default firm in 1998, Robin co-founded Wright, Finlay & Zak (WFZ) in 2002, specializing in assisting the mortgage industry with its litigation, compliance, licensing, and regulatory needs. Under Robin’s leadership, WFZ grew from six attorneys exclusively in California to a Western Regional Firm with roughly 35 attorneys covering 11 western states and a woman-led majority of partners. Robin helped WFZ achieve designation as a WBENC-certified woman-owned business in 2017. Throughout her 30-year legal career, Robin has spoken at numerous mortgage industry events, developed the firm’s Diversity and Inclusion Policy, and been an example and mentor to female attorneys throughout the industry.”

What This Nomination Means to Her
“I am truly grateful for this nomination. I am reminded that being a female equity partner of a law firm is statistically improbable, and being a female managing partner of a law firm is even less probable. In 2020, the ABA cited that only 12% of law firm managing partners were female. Our law firm is a WBENC-certified women-owned firm where majority of our equity partners are women, 50% of our non-equity partners are women, and an overwhelming majority of the firm’s management positions are held by women. This distinguished nomination serves as recognition for not only myself but to my co-finalists, other women leaders everywhere, and everyone who supports diverse and women-owned businesses. We are all winners.”

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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