Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

Sign up for our twice-weekly newsletter!

Finance executive talks representation, inclusion in the workplace

Colin Wagner | Staff Photographer
Sharifa Anderson, the senior vice president and chief diversity and inclusion officer of the Federal National Mortgage Association.

Updated: Feb. 16, 2024, at 5:08 p.m.

A diversity executive discussed diversity in corporate spaces and her professional journey at the School of Media and Public Affairs last week. 

Sharifa Anderson — the senior vice president and chief diversity and inclusion officer at Fannie Mae — said companies’ diversity and inclusion work should go beyond appointing a diversity officer and ensure everyone in an organization is supporting and sharing its efforts. The conversation with School of Business interim dean Vanessa Perry on Thursday was part of the school’s Diversity and Allyship Week

Anderson said her work before her current role at Fannie Mae as an associate at various private law firms and attorney at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development already promoted diversity and inclusion, but wasn’t centered on the subject.

“That work was very much about expanding access, whether it was building affordable housing, partnering with companies to come up with innovative solutions to increase access to credit,” Anderson said. “And so in many ways it felt like I was doing the work of diversity and inclusion, though not in a dedicated role.”

Anderson said she has been exposed to racial, ethnic and socioeconomic diversity as the daughter of two immigrants from Jamaica who grew up in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts. She said her community’s limited resources inspired her to become a lawyer so she could expand access and opportunity for others.

Anderson said Fannie Mae’s business at a “basic level” is to buy and sell mortgages to investors, giving mortgage banks more money to create more mortgages for prospective homeowners.

“I think we are thinking more deeply today than we ever have before about what it means to provide liquidity in a way that we’re serving all of the communities, in particular communities that haven’t been served,” Anderson said.

Anderson said much of the diversity and inclusion work at Fannie Mae addresses appraisal bias, which devalues the worth of homes belonging to marginalized groups. Homes in Black neighborhoods have a 21 to 23 percent lower appraisal value than what their valuations would be in non-Black neighborhoods, according to a 2022 Brookings report. 

“So much of the work that we do at Fannie Mae is about understanding how bias shows up in our processes and our systems and how do we eliminate bias,” Anderson said. “And that serves all of us. If you understand diversity and inclusion in that way, I think you have a very different appreciation for the work, but that’s not the narrative that’s being told in many spaces.”

In 2018, Fannie Mae established its Future Housing Leaders program, partnering with other financial institutions to support a more diverse housing industry.

Anderson said more than half of Fannie Mae’s 8,000 employees identify as a person of color, which helps the company overcome obstacles to delivering their service in more communities.

“Those things are important because as we look at the demographics of this country, and what we know is ahead and even present today, it’s a tremendous opportunity to really serve a broader set of households,” Anderson said.

Anderson said diversity and inclusion at companies includes much more than appointing a chief diversity officer and that the “real test” for diversity and inclusion is examining how the organization shares the work. 

“It’s so much more than one person or one team,” Anderson said. “It’s really got to be embedded in everything that you do.”

This post was updated to correct the following:

The Hatchet incorrectly reported that more than half of Fannie Mae’s 1,000 employees identified as a person of color. Fannie Mae has 8,000 employees. We regret this error.

More to Discover
Donate to The GW Hatchet