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Breaking the barriers of Gender in Corporate Culture

So, I wrote a book called ‘Wise Eyes’ – See Your Way to Success’ and another one called ‘Clear Boundaries’- Every Business Women Essential Safety Guide’ and both were released in early 2018. Interestingly, many people around me were surprised and clearly uncomfortable, to say the least. I asked myself why? Neither book was controversial. ‘Wise Eyes’ was my personal story of triumph and success, about becoming a leader, about having a consistent winning record in sales and what I accredited that to. ‘Clear Boundaries’ was an overdue state of the art safety book motivated by a near harm situation and after the loss of two coworkers to violent crimes in the span of 30 years. Even I was surprised at first at the whispering and assessing going on just outside my peripheral vision that many loyal colleagues were repeating to me. So, was it me that had changed over time? OR had the climate changed how men perceived strong women? We may never know which came first. Also, it was proof that anything, and I mean ANYTHING that smelled like woman liberation was off putting to many people. However, I would not be deterred, unwavering in my now path to be heard finally on the topics of living in the male dominated field of finance, I decided why not now, why not speak up now and share my thoughts not for any other reason than to fan the flames of women behind me and help carve a clear path for them to follow. To provide hope, to give strategic direction and to liberate my own quiet voice on this topic. ‘Clear Boundaries’ became a Best Selling Book the day it released and continues to be sold and talked about all over the nation. Wise Eyes is a sell out at every convention stop I make. Both were cathartic to write and I am certain will pay dividends to me and those who read them for a long time to come.
Breaking the barriers of Gender in Corporate Culture is not going to be a one generation quest for women professionals. Much like balancing the national deficit. It’s going to take a long baton passing culture of women who will be happy to plow forward and hand the baton to the next brave soul behind them willing to do so for many decades to come. I see the women ahead of me now who are grabbing me and pulling me up and I am looking behind me as well for those I will do the same to in years to come. I am now 3 decades in my finance career and while I have amassed some fame and fortune as a 2% female “executive”, I have done so having to hold on to my trophies as a reminder that I did deserve and earn my spot at the table. I have had to defend to some the contests already won, having justified that I wasn’t a token female and most irritating having to explain I wasn’t an Account Executive, Marketing Manager or Loan Originator, well past my climb to the upper ranks of sales. Not to offend anyone in those very respectable jobs, of which titles I held somewhere along my journey. I am still not sure that people really see me externally as a Sales senior or executive leader, but I am certain I have formed some sort of knee jerk defense to that, so it may be my perception of how I am seen.
I’m not sure what makes a person look and see a person for their actual credence. I know when I speak, I command a room. When I am interviewed I hold my own and when I lecture, I can do so with the vast experience of an in the trench sales leader of my tenure. It is then and only then that I believe my true experience is on display. Even though there are obvious challenges that are gender related let it be noted that many great men, by higher percentages even, were fair, loyal and supportive of my career. My promotions ultimately were given to me by men. My starts and responsibilities have been given by men. We always seem to remember the hard stuff, but I would be remiss if I didn’t say, I am greatly appreciative to some stunning examples of fine men in our world who were secure and happy to help me. Not threatened and I would argue, not threatened by my strength or experience.
I also know I have been the person to get things right, to set the sales on fire in organizations through careful business planning and forecasting, proper training and motivation, through executed and accountable roll outs and if cleanup was needed on isle 9, I was your girl. I went out on the road for 6 months to re-roll a CRM that the sales force just couldn’t adept to and successfully got adaptation by refocus, rebranding, re-exciting, reselling and recommitting to its success. Sure, it took pulling them away from their desks and isolating the training, with focus, expectation and deliverables but I got the job done. Sometimes if you have an excellent plan, it’s worth sticking to, even when it’s not working at first.
Yes, I have survived in this minority presence because I fought each battle as it came one at a time with the necessary force deemed appropriate to prevail. I survived because I had my head down and did the work to begin with and focused on delivering results. I survived because I earned my male counterparts respect with my ability to deliver superior sales results, thus validating my worth. I survived because I took little to no crap and was willing to call someone out if I had to. I survived because I was a fierce competitor. That is just the truth.
The truth in “Breaking Barriers for Women or Gender” in Corporate Culture will not be for the thin skinned. The banking industry was not built initially to withstand a woman’s schedule, their multitasking lives. It was not built to tolerate a work life balance. No, the financial services and mortgage industry specifically is made up of mostly men in sales because I believe it’s a hard job for anyone to do let alone a person juggling home, work and the demands of health and wellness that comes with it, let alone any sort of social life which is typically high on the list for most women. Over three decades I have seen the emergence of employers who are promoting more acceptable of this needed balance, in all those areas and succeeding as a result.
I have thrown my hat in a ring 6X for promotions over 30 years in management. All 6X I had not one woman I was competing with for that seat. Not ONE!! I was competing with men. When I didn’t get the job, I had to convince myself it wasn’t gender bias and go back and do more and show up again. I was relentless. I just kept throwing my hat in the ring. Until, by most standards, my sales numbers were at the very top of whatever category being measured, my experience and tenure so far outweighed my competition that looking over me or around me would be in just. I broke 5 glass ceilings to date. I have it in me to break more still and am breaking a couple right now as I write this. I was just named as the first female anchor for Mortgage News Network and will soon be releasing a first season on a new show called “The Most Powerful Women in Banking”. It’s an exciting time.
To end, I will say this. I am extremely grateful. Sometimes until you step away and look back you do not know what you’ve accomplished. I have survived in a club that I was not certain at time I would survive in, let alone thrive. I have consistently won and prevailed and through time, through running courtside with my sales peeps, shouting out calls, making them take the shots, helping them win, they stopped looking at me as a girl and began to realize I had what it took to bring them and our teams to victory. I am an aggressive sales coach. I now know I have always possessed the character to win, for that and for those who helped me I am grateful. I’m pleased with what I have represented. I am happy I carved a clear path for the ladies behind me. There is a generation of women coming that is sure to amaze.
I will spend the next decade of my career helping women navigate this muddy and somewhat turmoil riddled path they find themselves on and I hope I am a beacon of light for them. I hope I am a beacon of light for all people who I manage or coach. This is my hope.
About the Author
Christine Beckwith is a National Vice President Realtor & Sales Management at AnnieMac Home Mortgage. She also serves as President at 20/20 Vision for Success Coaching & Consulting. She became a 30-year mortgage industry veteran in 2018. Over 3 decades she has consistently won in mortgage sales originations at all ranks, from the Loan Officer seat and up the ranks all the way to her Regional sales management roles at the top 5% consistently. For the past 18 years she has run mortgage companies at a senior and executive level. During that time, she has continued to win public awards for breaking several glass ceilings.