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AMI diversity and inclusion report finds ‘appetite for change’ but more work needed

  • 21/10/2021
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AMI diversity and inclusion report finds ‘appetite for change’ but more work needed
The Association of Mortgage Intermediaries (AMI) has revealed that women, LGBTQ+ and ethnic minority colleagues face a higher likelihood of discrimination and exclusion but diversity and inclusion have risen further up the industry's agenda.


AMI’s second Viewpoint report, which collated responses from 1,178 people, found there was definite “appetite for change”, with 82 per cent of respondents saying they felt diversity and inclusion was important and just five per cent saying they didn’t think it was important.

However, those surveyed, especially from minority groups, reported discrimination in the workplace and at industry events and also raised concerns around culture and leadership.

More than 40 per cent of respondents said the mortgage industry attracted a representative workforce. This falls among women, LGBTQ+ and those of ethnic minorities to 35 per cent for women and 36 per cent respectively for the latter groups.

AMI chairman Andrew Montlake said that while the report showed some “stark, uncomfortable facts” it was necessary to acknowledge issues in order to go forward.

He said: “For too long we have shied away from the issue, finding the conversation too difficult or dismissing it as not relevant. I am immensely proud that we now have the strength of character to do this.”

Robert Sinclair (pictured), chief executive of AMI, added: that there was “real hope for the future” and AMI was committed to working with firms, partners and industry to improve the sector.

He said: “We must come together, banish poor behaviour and choices, and eliminate any ingrained prejudices to ensure that we, as an industry, attract a diverse workforce. We must champion true meritocracy, smash glass ceilings and ensure we are truly representative of the customers we advise now and in the future. Our industry, our people and our clients will thank us.”


Discrimination higher in underrepresented groups

Around eight per cent of those surveyed experienced sexual harassment or inappropriate behaviour, with 12 per cent saying they had witnessed it. This rose to 15 per cent for women.

Nearly 11 per cent said they had witnessed bullying, physical harassment or violence, with seven per cent experiencing it.

More than 20 per cent of respondents also reported other common forms of discrimination, such as being unfairly spoken to, demeaning language being used, feeling uncomfortable or excluded.

Between 15 and 30 per cent experienced or witnessed being passed over for a promotion, being uncomfortable at industry events or made to work on tasks below their skills or pay grade.

Anecdotally, ethnic minority groups and those from LGBTQ+ backgrounds also reported in interviews that racist and homophobic remarks were not uncommon.

The report revealed that 14 per cent of all survey respondents witnessed or experienced situations where people felt uncomfortable at industry events. This proportion grew among women.

Interviewees said that events continued to reflect older straight white male culture, despite some progress in recent years, pointing to the choice of speakers, type of awards, alcohol consumption and lack of consideration to ensuring underrepresented groups felt included.


Raising concerns of discrimination

Those who experienced or witnessed discrimination were less likely to raise concerns with senior leaders or human resources, with between 21 and 23 per cent of women, LGBTQ+ and ethnic minority groups raising issues.

This rose to 42 per cent for gay and lesbian colleagues who either experienced or witnessed discrimination but chose not to report it.

The main reason cited for not reporting discrimination was a lack of trust that complaints will be handled well and lead to positive outcome for the complainant.

AMI said that it would take measures with member firms to ensure proper procedures were in place to report behaviour but people needed to “take responsibility for making sure that inappropriate behaviour become unacceptable and attracts appropriate sanctions”.


Changing culture from ‘old boys club’

The report found that the culture of the industry had become more professional and inclusive in some ways in recent years, but that there were still pockets who described it as an “old boys club”.

Just under a quarter of those surveyed disagree that diversity and inclusion was being taken seriously in the sector, which rises to 44 per cent among LGBTQ+ people and 50 per cent of those from ethnic minority background.

Just over a quarter of women disagree, which the report said suggested that efforts like the Women in Finance charter to improve female representation were having a positive impact on the industry.

The report said that the industry needed to move beyond discrete initiatives and make structural to changes to embed diversity and inclusivity into firms themselves.

It also said that women, LGBTQ+ and ethnic minority colleagues were more likely to experience a sense of exclusion, with seven per cent of women, 15 per cent of LGBTQ+ and 13 per cent of ethnic minority colleagues experience a sense of exclusion.

The report added that more people in those groups also felt that they were not valued in their workplace and that they couldn’t bring their “whole selves” to work. They were also more likely to report mental health, which the report said could be aggravated by sense of exclusion and bullying.

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