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350,000 people work in the mortgage industry in the United States. Like many other segments of the finance industry, mortgage lending remains a male-dominated field. Women, and women of color in particular, are dramatically underrepresented, yet in many ways they are the unrecognized spark of dynamism needed to keep the industry on the cutting edge of innovation. Following the murder of George Floyd, companies and trade associations across the industry made statements in support of racial justice, just as they spoke out for gender equality in the early days of the #MeToo movement. But actions always speak louder than words.

Last month, the chairman of the Association for Independent Mortgage Experts (AIME), a Detroit-based trade association for mortgage brokers, took to social media where he made disgusting, morally repugnant comments about the spouse of an industry rival. The executive, Anthony Casa, posted a number of videos on various social media channels, and sent text messages to the husband of Theresa Niemiec, who is an executive at competitor Quicken Loans. Mrs. Niemiec has rightfully filed a defamation lawsuit against Casa; the suit states that the posts and messages were “reprehensible and especially appalling during the #MeToo era.”

Industry leaders can talk all they want about diversity and inclusivity, but unless they take action when misogyny rears its ugly head, the message they send to women is loud and clear: You are not welcome. Most mortgage brokers are small businesses, franchisees and independent operators, as are most realtors. If clear, decisive, values-driven steps aren’t taken when wrongdoing occurs, then prospective entrepreneurs will simply walk away.

Individual incidents of sexism and harassment have an echo effect which, if ignored, can contribute directly to an anti-entrepreneur environment. Combined with a lack of access to capital, especially for women of color, and other long-simmering issues around equal pay and child care deemed “women’s issues,” female entrepreneurs are given every reason to avoid opening a small business in the first place.

Casa eventually offered a pitiful apology and later announced that he has taken a leave of absence from AIME, which comes across simply as an attempt to cool off out of the public eye. The Greater Midwest Lenders Association, representing small mortgage brokers and others in the industry, declared that Casa’s “child-like behavior and misogyny against women should permanently prevent him from any role within AIME.” They are absolutely right. The industry should close the door on Mr. Casa and lock it behind him.

Movements do not occur at once; change comes in waves, as industries grapple with racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination which take years to identify, expose and eradicate. In October 2017, reporters bravely broke the story of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assault history. More than two years later, Hollywood is still grappling with the hard work of change, including issuing new industry guidelines for casting and, maybe most importantly, elevating women into more influential and high profile roles. Other industries, including politics, media, sports and hospitality, have all been challenged by their own histories with sexual assault and workplace harassment against women. Every sector will eventually have to look in the mirror.

What happens at the industry leader level ultimately shapes the entrepreneurial environment. The companies we invest in, the entrepreneurs we empower, and the kind of economy we want to see — if we turn a blind eye to bad behavior, the chilling effect will be real, and it will be more than just women in the workplace who suffer the consequences.

Leaving misogynists in positions of power is the worst way to combat workplace discrimination and harassment, and it only undermines the work that many companies are doing to increase diversity and inclusion and attract the talented women and minority leaders of tomorrow, who have been too long overlooked by the old boys’ club.

Women must stand up and ensure their voices are heard, and make it clear that the men leading these companies and organizations will be held accountable. Additionally, men should act as allies to call out these vile behaviors. Anything short of that is simply unacceptable.