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Women in Housing Awards Close Out Annual Five Star Conference

On Tuesday, Five Star once again hosted its annual Women in Housing Leadership Awards event, recognizing the tremendous achievements of remarkable businesswomen whose contributions will continue to impact the housing and mortgage servicing industry for years to come.

The event opened up with welcome remarks from Five Star Global Chairman Ed Delgado, who recalled female mentors who had inspired and impacted him over the course of his career. Following Ed's opening speech, the event transitioned into a new segment for 2021, a panel discussion featuring:

  • Debbie Garcia-Gratacos, President, DEVAL Servicing
  • Marcia Griffin, President & CEO, HomeFree USA
  • Ali Haralson, President, Auction.com
  • Jocelyn Martin-Leano, President, Servicing Division, Rushmore Loan Management Services
  • Miriam Moore, Division President, Default Services, ServiceLink
Martin-Leano shared with the audience some of the impediments that women face, based on personal experience.
"I'll use myself as an example, we sometimes don't claim our accomplishments,” she said. "Here's a simple example that I'm trying to learn from: someone will tell me, 'Jocelyn, you did a great job,' and I'll say, 'well, a lot of us did it' or 'it wasn't that hard after all.' So one thing I'm learning at this late stage is to say, 'thank you' and stop there.”

The panelists answered questions about work-life balance, discussed whether it’s even appropriate to ask such a question of a woman, and whether society levels the same sort of scrutiny at men.

"When you get to a certain level in your career, you make sacrifices for the things you want,” said Haralson. "I chased a career and my husband stayed home with the children and picked up the house when we moved, and the same thing happens in a reverse role. If you’ve got a good partnership, it runs both ways. I don’t think of it as a woman’s work-life balance but a family’s, as a unit.”
Griffin told the crowd, "Where balance is concerned, it is really wonderful to be among women who are doing powerful things and running powerful businesses—moving the industry forward. I feel there is a sensitivity that women bring to the work environment that is absolutely critical … we’ve got a role to play."
"I have a very rigid morning schedule," said Garcia-Gratacos. "A lot has to do with organization and being purposeful—I wake up, I pray, I work out, and it begins at 4 or 5 in the morning. Because what I won’t do is give up time with my kids when I get home. In order to get those things done, I have to make time for those things. But it’s not different—men do the same thing."

Following the panel, Ed retook the stage to begin the presentation of the Women in Housing Awards. This year's Women in Housing Award recipients included:

1) Rising Star Executive: Theresa Dumais, VP of Government & Industry Relations, Freddie Mac

What she told Five Star about her nomination: “It is an incredible honor to be a Rising Star Executive finalist for the Five Star Institute’s 2021 Women in Housing Awards. As one of the youngest officers at Freddie Mac, I bring my policy expertise, passion for providing safe and affordable housing opportunities in all corners of the market, and unique perspective to help inform the important work we do here at the company. As a Hispanic woman, I know how critical it is to help lift up women and minorities into leadership roles within the financial services industry. I have made this an important issue throughout my work both at Freddie Mac and as volunteer co-chair of the Professional Development Committee and board member of Women in Housing & Finance. We’re a stronger housing finance system when our collective leadership reflects the diverse and unique perspectives of our shared communities. I am grateful to the Five Star Institute’s leadership in elevating success stories of women leading in our industry!”

2) Excellence in Leadership: Ramie Word, SVP Customer Care & Client Delivery, Mr. Cooper

What she told Five Star about her nomination: “I am honored to be nominated in this category because mentorship has been close to my heart throughout my career with Mr. Cooper. I’ve had so many meaningful leaders that have helped me develop my own leadership style and driven me further than I thought possible. It’s been important to me to pay that experience forward with our future leaders. It’s so critical to have a safe space and sounding board for our up-and-coming female leadership. I want to lead by example towards a more diverse and equitable culture within our industry. I feel a sense of responsibility as a female leader to make sure I’m supporting our future executives. From a selfish perspective, it’s extremely satisfying to see so many of the ‘mentees’ I’ve spent time with journey down their own path of success and rise to the challenge.”

3) Excellence in Leadership: Sandra Jarish, President, Servicing, Planet Home Lending, LLC

What she told Five Star about her nomination: “While I’m proud to receive this award, the credit really goes to my exceptional Planet servicing team. Together, we tackled COVID- 19-related issues like forbearance and getting employees what they needed to work from home safely. As a team, we opened our new Dallas servicing center, implemented an early buyout program for securitized mortgages, and put in place enhanced technology to serve our private clients. My team makes me a better leader as we work together to make Planet's servicing second to none. Being nominated for an award in the Women in Housing’s Excellence in the Leadership category is not only an honor but it allows me to set an example for other women in our business and provides a path forward to success and personal achievement.”

4) Diversity & Inclusion Champion: Sophie Kim, SVP, People & Culture, CIVIC Financial Services

What she told Five Star about her nomination: “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.”

5) Laurie G. Maggiano Executive of the Year: Ali Haralson, President, Auction.com

What she told Five Star about her nomination: “I am honored to be nominated for the coveted Laurie Maggiano Executive of the Year Award. Laurie was an industry icon, a force for good, and a believer in making a difference in the lives of others. The past 18 months have tested my grit and determination while responding to change. At the pandemic's start, we created our Community Stabilization Pledge to help safeguard distressed homeowners and occupants. We also continued refining our platform and strategy to produce better outcomes that help stabilize neighborhoods by returning properties to market faster. Our pre-foreclosure Market Validation Program benefits include foreclosure prevention, transparency that allows equal access for buyers, a graceful exit for borrowers, better execution for sellers, and neighborhood stabilization. Launched in June 2020, the IDEA Council has created numerous educational events focused on a more diverse and inclusive workplace. Since becoming Auction.com's first female president, I have intensified the company's focus on innovative solutions to yield better outcomes for buyers, homeowners, communities, and employees. My competitive drive will keep me pushing for positive change for our company, industry, and communities, striving to stabilize neighborhoods and create a future of affordable housing.

About Author: David Wharton

David Wharton, Managing Editor at the Five Star Institute, is a graduate of the University of Texas at Arlington, where he received his B.A. in English and minored in Journalism. Wharton has over 15 years of experience in journalism and previously worked at Thomson Reuters, a multinational mass media and information firm, as Associate Content Editor, focusing on producing media content related to tax and accounting principles and government rules and regulations for accounting professionals. Wharton has an extensive and diversified portfolio of freelance material, with published contributions in both online and print media publications. Wharton and his family currently reside in Arlington, Texas. He can be reached at David.Wharton@theMReport.com.
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