March is Women’s History Month and RiskSpan is marking the occasion by sharing a short series of posts featuring advice from women leaders in our industry.

Today’s contributor is Dr. Laurie Goodman, vice president at the Urban Institute and codirector of Urban’s Housing Finance Policy Center. Laurie helped break barriers as one of the first women to work on Wall Street and built her own brand as a go-to researcher for the housing and mortgage industry.

Laurie serves on the board of directors of MFA Financial, Arch Capital Group, Home Point Capital and DBRS. In 2009, she was inducted into the Fixed Income Analysts Hall of Fame following a series of successful research leadership and portfolio management positions at several Wall Street firms.


Laurie offers this guidance to young women (though it is applicable to everyone):

#1 – Figure out the balance that works for you between your personal life and your work life, realizing that you can’t be all things to all people all the time. There are times when you will spend more time on your work life and times when you will spend more time on your home life and other non-work related activities. You can’t be a super-performer at both all the time. Don’t beat yourself up for that part of your life where you feel you are underperforming.

#2 – Develop a thick skin and don’t take things personally. This will make you a much better colleague. Many times, colleagues and others in your organization make comments that can be interpreted either as personal affronts or general statements on the project. Always look for the non-personal interpretation (even if you suspect it is personal). For example, “Gee, these results aren’t very useful” can be interpreted personally as “It’s your fault — if you had done it differently it would have been better” or non-personally, as in “The material just didn’t give us any new insights.” Assume it was meant non-personally.  

#3 – Develop confidence and advocate for yourself. Speak up in meetings, particularly if you have points to add, or can steer the conversation back on track. If you are not feeling confident, fake it until you realize that you have as much (or more) to contribute than anyone else. And use that confidence to advocate for yourself — your success is more important to you than it is to anyone else. Have the confidence to own your mistakes; we all make mistakes. if you own them, you will do everything you can to correct them.

We also asked Laurie what, if anything, she might have done differently. Her response:

Early in my career, when things went off track for any reason, I got very frustrated. I was unable or unwilling to distinguish between those aspects of my work that were under my control, and those aspects of my work environment that I could not control. As a result, in the early years of my career, I changed jobs frequently. As the years have gone on, I have learned to do the best work I can on issues that are under my control and accept and live with what is not. It has made my work life much more enjoyable and productive.


Our thanks to Laurie for her valuable perspective!

Keep an eye on https://riskspan.com/resources/ throughout March for insights from other women we admire in mortgage and structured finance.


RiskSpan is proud to sponsor POWER OF VOICE BENEFIT. Girls Leadership teaches girls to exercise the power of their voice. #powerofvoice2021