Women Who Serve as CEOs Talk About the Glass Ceiling

2-24-15-OTC.pngThe banking industry’s top ranks have long been considered an “old boys’ club,” if not forbidden to women, at least unwelcoming. Even today, only one of America’s 25 largest banks has a woman in the CEO slot: Beth Mooney, chairman and CEO of KeyCorp.

That’s why I was surprised to discover more than one-third of the 46 banks that trade on our OTCQX marketplace have a woman in a senior leadership role. In fact, two OTCQX banks have a female CEO and CFO and one bank has a female chairwoman.

But the gender diversity doesn’t stop there. Of the 15 OTCQX banks surveyed, several reported a high number of women in senior leadership roles. In one bank, up to 80 percent of the senior leadership was female. The two banks with a female CEO and CFO also reported a high concentration of women on their boards.

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Is there a correlation between being a transparent, shareholder-friendly OTCQX community bank and having more female officers and board members? Who knows, but I thought I’d ask female OTCQX bank executives about their thoughts on gender diversity in banking, what unique traits women bring to the banking profession and their advice to young female bankers who seek to ascend the ladders at their companies. Here are their thoughts:

Do you think gender diversity is important on community bank boards and management? Why or why not?
“… gender diversity is just as important as professional, educational, and ethnic diversity on a bank board and in management.” —Janet Silveria, president and CEO of Community Bank of Santa Maria (OTCQX: CYSM), a $211-million asset community bank serving Santa Maria, Orcutt and Lompoc, California.

“Yes, as is overall diversity including education, experience, ethnicity, etc.  I think having a female on the board changes the communication and dynamics of a board of mostly men in a positive way.” —Tamara Gurney, president and CEO of Mission Valley Bancorp (OTCQX: MVLY), holding company for Mission Valley Bank in Sun Valley, California, with $260 million in assets.

What unique trait or perspective do you think women bring to bank boards and the C-suite?
“… women tend to be more practical and analytical. They tend to work better as a team, and see things more globally.” —Silveria.

“… women are very efficient and good at multi-tasking.  In addition, many women are very good at decision making and a caring approach to staff development and team building.” —Colleen Brown, senior vice president, treasurer and CFO at Standard Financial Corp. (OTCQX: STND), parent company of Standard Bank, a Pennsylvania chartered savings bank serving Allegheny, Westmoreland and Bedford Counties in Pennsylvania and Allegany County in Maryland.

What advice would you give a woman looking to attain a leadership position in banking?
“Be yourself; don’t flaunt feminism, but you don’t need to act like a man. Embrace your feminine perspective and all the positive attributes that come with being a woman. Be assertive; stand up for your convictions, but always be respectful and kind.” —Silveria

“Use the strengths of being a woman, finding balance between the more nurturing, caring side and the drive typically associated with masculinity. You need to show strength, conviction, confidence and assertiveness, but the caring and compassion are critical as well. Believe in yourself and be yourself; don’t try to act like a man.” —Gurney

When asked if they actively recruit or mentor young women at their companies, most survey respondents said that they take a measured approach, preferring to hire the “best person for the job” rather than hire based on gender.

As to a pay disparity between male and female bankers, most of the women agreed it still exists, but at least one sees a silver lining: “I have seen a slight improvement,” says Gurney.

Maggie Chou