20 January/February 2016
elders in the church. I actually became an elder when
I was 15. The church had decided to include someone
on the Session who was a teen. I was the second one
selected, and I had the full voting rights of an elder. I
think people would say I have the ability to be very
diplomatic, that I can deliver a hard message in a relatively diplomatic way. The other elders were people
who were not only older than me, but, many were
older than my parents. To participate, I had to learn
how to discuss issues and respectfully disagree, and I
did. Now, many years later, people ask me about my
diplomacy, and, I have come to the realization that one
of the ways I learned that was in the church.”
TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS
The mortgage industry, like many others, faces
challenges, and executives could lose sleep over them.
“I don’t usually wake up in the middle of the night,
because I stay up late! Certainly, during the financial
crisis, we all were thinking about what we needed to
do to get the company successfully to the other side.
Thankfully, that’s behind us.
“I think more now about what is going on from
a regulatory and legislative standpoint. I worry about
whether the balance is appropriate. There is a need
to protect consumers, but, at the same time, there
has been significant activity and rhetoric that has kept
access to credit more constrained than it should be. If
you look at where credit is today compared to where
it was in 2001 before the onset of products that
created many of the financial problems, there is a big
difference. So, that does worry me. Many people are
well-meaning, but, this is a very complex industry, and,
even those of us who are in the industry find it dif-
ficult to predict the downstream impacts from certain
actions. I do think, though, we have a better sense of it
than those who do not understand mortgage banking.
“Also, I always want to be sure we are serving our
customers. Are we doing things that make us a good
partner for them? Are we constantly thinking ahead?
Our day-to-day tasks and regulatory challenges make
it difficult to think forward, but, we have to focus on
Although more women now hold executive-level
and management positions, they may still face adversity
negotiating the financial services industry. What difficul-
ties has Teresa faced being the ‘smartest women in the
room,’ and an African American? Teresa recounts her
experiences with desegregation and workplace diversity.
“Looking back on my upbringing and school experiences, I think I have had the benefit of experiences others may not have had. Before entering the professional
world, I did have exposure to the challenges women
sometimes face and those of African Americans.
“I attended a segregated elementary school until
the fourth grade. People may not expect that, but,
that’s how Virginia was. When school busing began, I
was really too young to understand it, and my school
happened to be in my neighborhood, so, busing did
not affect me directly.
“When I was in third grade, the school system
integrated the faculty at my school, and we were
assigned a white principal. The next year, the student
body was integrated. From the perspective of the
students, it went off without a hitch.
“By the time I was in high school, the African
American population of the school was about 12 or
13%, and there would be fights among some of the
kids. That seemed weird to me because I had friends
and close classmates who were of every type of background, race, and ethnicity, and I didn’t understand the
fighting. That’s when I began to realize that much of it
had socio-economic roots.
“At UVA, I was only in the seventh class of women
and the seventh class of African Americans attending
college there. There had been some African Ameri-