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Women in Housing Forum Honors Female Trailblazers

By Kendall Baer

A number of female trailblazers that have established a name for themselves in what was once a male-dominated market were highlighted earlier this week during the Fourth Annual Women in Housing Leadership Forum, the closing event of the three-day 2016 Five Star Conference and Expo.

To celebrate the strength and leadership of women across housing and mortgage servicing, three of those trailblazers, each of them with important lessons learned as they have traveled down their path, delivered keynote addresses at the Women in Housing Leadership Forum in advance of a keynote address from Laura Bush, First Lady of the United States (2001-2009).

The first of the keynote speakers was Charmaine Brown, Director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion for Fannie Mae. Since Brown began work in the housing industry and through her career at Fannie Mae, she has become an inspiration to those around her by developing programs and initiatives that expand the capabilities of women and minorities across the mortgage industry.

After a career of 15 years supporting community development and single family housing, Brown transitioned to Fannie Mae’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion where she has created a group of community based organizations and trusted advisors to expand access to affordable credit for multicultural families.

Brown, noted for her work to further diversity within the industry, shared with the audience a line from the Maya Angelou poem "Human Family," which states that "We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike."

Dana Dillard, Chief Customer Officer and EVP for Nationstar Mortgage, delivered the second keynote address. As Nationstar’s Chief Customer Officer, Dillard is responsible for complaint management and community relations, working to drive the vision of continuous improvement and customer care within the organization.

Prior to joining Nationstar, Dillard served as SVP for GMAC RESCAP and has held executive positions at EMC Mortgage (a subsidiary of Bear Sterns) Lomas Mortgage USA and Bank of America. Dillard held a leadership role on the board of the HOPE NOW Alliance where she led industry outreach efforts to prevent foreclosures in the U.S. housing market.

Dillard focused on three things during her address that she felt are the most important points for people in the industry to understand: empathy, humility, and perspective.

The third keynote address was from Amy Bonitatibus, Chief Communications Officer of Mortgage Banking and Credit Card Business for JPMorgan Chase. Before joining Chase, Bonitatibus was a Senior Director at Fannie Mae where she oversaw executive communications and media relations. She also coordinated a grassroots media campaign for the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Making Home Affordable program, traveling to hardest hit markets across the country with Treasury officials to talk about the program’s progress and local impact.

Bonitatibus shared with the audience that she feels in front of every woman is a powerful opportunity. In the early 2000s, while still in college, Bonitatibus seized her opportunity while interning for then-Senator Hillary Clinton. When Clinton's deputy press secretary went on maternity leave, Bonitatibus stepped into the position on an interim basis and performed so admirably that she was offered the job full time.

After these industry leaders spoke, Laura Bush took the stage to close out the event. In her address, Mrs. Bush noted her work with the education for Afghanistan women and the release of her new book about her work.

Click here to be directed to MReport's special September issue celebrating the role of women in housing.

Editor's Note: The Five Star Institute is the parent company of MReport and TheMReport.com.

About Author: Seth Welborn

Seth Welborn is a Harding University graduate with a degree in English and a minor in writing. He is a contributing writer for MReport. An East Texas Native, he has studied abroad in Athens, Greece and works part-time as a photographer.

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