Boys' club no more

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While men still outnumber women in the mortgage industry, the female broker population is growing steadily - and they aren't letting any pass‚ boys' club mentalities slow down their success. An additional two women made it onto CMP's Top 50 Brokers list this year, bringing the total to 17 (or 34%), a significant number for an industry often viewed as being male-dominated.

"I know there are a lot of women in the industry, but it seems like we're noticing them more lately," says Carolyn Callero, a mortgage agent at Verico Premiere Mortgage Centre in Georgetown, Ont. "I'm seeing more women's faces in CMP magazine and at industry functions."

When asked about the challenges of being a woman in the industry, Callero - who finished at 46 on this year's list - says she sometimes feels it's a "boys' club" when it comes to relationships between male realtors and brokers. But she refuses to remain in the background or miss out on opportunities when it comes to networking activities typically classified as male-centric.

"I've gotten more into golfing and I'm getting more in with the guys that way - trying to find their interests and building connections through that," she says.

Fitting in with men was something Diana Zitko, broker/owner of Meridian West Coast Mortgages in Coquitlam, B.C., and number 17 on the this year's list, says she struggled with when she started in the real estate industry 14 years ago, but saw a change in attitude when she switched to the mortgage business.

"When I got into the broker industry about nine years ago, it was such a difference," she says, mentioning that a lot of her clients prefer to work with women. In fact, "I'd say with 80% of our files that are a husband and wife, we're doing most of our talking with the wife," she says.

And stereotypes aside, Callero notes that certain qualities she's developed through being a mother have helped her be a better broker, such as the ability to multi-task, organize and keep calm under pressure.

"In a family setting, [women] are always having to put out little fires here and there - I think diplomatic is a good word for it - and that helps in this industry," she says.

Both Callero and Zitko say they work with mostly women on their respective staffs - Verico Premiere Mortgage Team includes six female brokers, and Zitko employs nine female employees - and even though it wasn't an intentional move to make it that way, it has become a supportive setting for them to work in.

Zitko says her gender hasn't given her any extra challenges to being a mortgage broker, but she still likes to support other women and help them build their business whenever possible - which can be as easy as using female referral sources when recommending lawyers and realtors. Call it her answer to the boys' club mentality.

"I think once you come into a certain level of success, you do get the respect you deserve," she says, before adding, "I think it's really great more women are joining the industry."