In the summer following my first year of college, in the mid 1970’s, I was working part-time auditing quarterly unemployment filings. I wanted more hours so I stopped at a bank nearby to see if I could fill up my time. They offered me a job filing for the residential mortgage department. Being naturally curious, I wanted to know as much as I could about residential lending and they were happy to oblige an inquisitive mind. Before I knew it my career choice was banking. I recognized early on that I wanted to be a commercial lender and quickly put my hand up for the credit department and thus my career in commercial banking started and I moved forward from there.
With the economy ever changing, requiring bankers to stay in tune with constant and varied economic changes, remain knowledgeable and nimble to change, has always kept me motivated to stay in banking. My 40 years in banking has seen some of the highest and lowest points in the economy. Prime hit its all-time high In the December 1980 at 21.5% and stayed in double digits for nearly five years. During that time, many bankers, including me, got a quick education in workout credit.
Banking is dynamic and never boring or stagnant.
I love helping people, and in banking you can always be a resource for your customers and build lasting long-term relationships. Helping younger bankers understand how important relationships are is a great motivator of mine. I like to help them understand how to build those relationships by being a resource for their customers, not just being an order taker. People love options.
Watching the success of others I may have influenced has also been a motivator for me. I am very proud of the career accomplishments of so many. I like to say, “I knew them when…”
Make women leading look natural. Be open, driven, ethical, honest, considerate, fair and kind.
Beginning in the late 1970’s and throughout my career, I had little opportunity to interact with women banking executives, especially in commercial banking. I did have female and male influencers throughout my life, beginning at home. So often, we overlook the family influence on women and their careers, especially male dominated fields.
I grew up with a smart adventurous mother and a very engaged father who together set a great stage for my future. Many summers in the 1960’s, my mother would pack up my brother, me, and our dog and drive 1,000 miles or more to visit family on Long Island and the North Shore of Massachusetts.
When I hear the term ‘girl dad’ associated most recently with Kobe Bryant, I recognize I had a great “girl dad.” He was as active a parent as my mother was. He made me feel like I could do and be anything I wanted. How lucky I was to have a dad who saw himself as an equal parenting partner with my mother? When I got into the workforce, I easily related to and aligned myself with my male and female colleagues.
I had the good fortune to work with many young men who rose through the ranks with me and never did I feel they thought they were better than I was. If they did, I did not notice, I was too busy making sure I was doing the best job with the job at hand.
Early in my career, I found myself choosing to be the mentor of young women in banking, although few were entering the male dominated industry in the 1980’s and I still find that to be the case today. We think we have come so far, however, there still are few women executives in commercial banking and banking / credit unions in general. Always wanting to help others succeed, I did not limit my mentoring to women, I mentored young men I worked with, as well. I take immense pride in the successes of those I worked with over the decades.
Young women need to see someone like themselves succeed, allowing them to imagine their future as an executive. Demonstrating enthusiasm for the industry and providing positive momentum helps drive them to grow and succeed. They need to be able to shine in their accomplishments and the “mentor” must be willing to put aside their own need to be recognized, allowing the mentee to shine in their accomplishments.
Identifying who you have confidence in and be willing to “throw them into it” without reservation is important. Provide guidance when needed and know when to back off when it is clear they have things covered. I was lucky to be given opportunities at a young age and see a reluctance to do that today. Take chances, there are some very talented young women in the field, they just need an opportunity to shine.
I am sure everyone responding to this question is saying there are too many to just name one. The books I like at certain times in my life often reflect what my focus is at the time. The book that came immediately to mind, given the topic of women in leadership roles in banking, is Ask for it: How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get what They Really Want by Linda Babcock & Sara Laschever. I could have written a chapter or two in that book!
It takes what I have come to understand over the years about negotiating for yourself and puts it neatly into four easy to understand phases.
Phase 1 helps women understand everything is negotiable. Women so often just take what they are offered and never question it. After all shouldn’t they be grateful…? See my first hand example under the response to; what do you consider your greatest success?
Phase 2 helps women learn basic negotiation skills and what their bargaining position is.
Phase 3 helps women “get ready,” the what, when, where, and how in order to “win.”
Phase 4 helps women “put it all together,” getting prepared.
These are negotiating skills all women should learn to help promote themselves in business, as well as, negotiating through many aspects of life. I have taken the tenets of this book and shared them with women many times over the years.
I like to think my greatest success has been making women leading in banking look natural and influencing the careers of many accomplished women. At the same time making working mothers with equal partners, in my case my husband, look natural. My success is our success and we have two wonderful sons who make me proud every day.
As my career is coming to a close, I reflect back on my 40 year in banking and it isn’t the events that stand out, it is the pride I have in the successes of others I have mentored during my career. Clearly the women stand out, however I know I have also influenced many men in my career by helping them not only see the way to their future also to see and treat women as equals.
I was fortunate to work with many men of my generation who saw me and treated me, as an equal. We were colleagues and peers not male or female. Setting that example of other young women is important. Young women are always looking up to women in leadership roles, looking for clues and cues as to what is acceptable behavior. Model the right behavior for them by building strong relationships with colleagues and clients.
The first time I had first-hand knowledge of pay inequities between men and women in banking was in the late 1980’s when the credit department at the bank I worked at hired two analyst, recent graduates of the same university, one women and one man. Being one of the only woman commercial lenders in the state at the time, the young women and I really connected. She was bright, articulate and had a wonderful future ahead of her. About a year into her job she shared with me, she was making quite a bit less than the young man hired at the same time she was, and she knew her GPA was significantly higher than his was. Naturally, I inquired with HR and found that was the case. I spoke with the Senior Lender and he immediately remedied the situation. I was curious how that happened and did some investigating. HR offered them both the same starting salary and the young man countered / negotiated his job offer and the young women took the offer; not thinking negotiating was an option.
Thus my interest in the book: Ask for it: How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get what They Really Want by Linda Babcock & Sara Laschever. I could have written a chapter or two in that book!
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