What Are You Doing to Get More Women in the C-suite?
I attended an event yesterday morning with three bank executives talking about the changing landscape of banking in the Triangle region. Toward the end, and right before it was opened up for Q & A, the moderator Sougata Mukherjee asked this question: "How do you get more women in the C-suite?"
I was not expecting that question but was quite pleased to hear it, so I immediately navigated to "voice memos" on my phone and hit record to capture their responses. Here are a few I'll share, with no opinion attached. I will leave the assessments up to you.
"The question is, how do you develop a pool of talent to get people in that position, and that requires what we call sponsorship and mentorship, and I think it takes a focused effort to reach out to people who haven’t had the same opportunities as the rest of us and try to develop that talent. And it doesn’t happen in months, it happens over years. So I think you have to start with a plan that is a long-term plan to move people into another role that they’ve been denied or haven’t had the same level of access in the past.” -Morgan Davis, President & CEO, TowneBank
"The most important thing in my view is that we create opportunity, we create pathways, and it's mentorship, it is making sure that we interview and consider diverse slates of candidates. Nobody wants to be in a role because of what they are, whether they are male or female, ethnicity or whatever. We need to create a level playing field - a meritocracy, and we've worked very hard. We've got a thoughtful leadership group that spends time thinking about that."
“I’m a firm believer that there are very few if anybody that is completely self-made. We’ve all had help, we’ve all had mentors, we’ve all had people that opened doors or created opportunities for us. And we need to make sure we’re doing that for the entire employee base. That’s the thing that we focus on. Making sure every door is open for every employee and let their capabilities and their skills dictate where they go.” -Bryan Jordan, Chairman, President & CEO, first Horizon National Corporation
"It has to be a focused effort. It's not just the C-suite, but in general, a lot of times men think they’re 60% qualified for a job they'll apply for a job. Sometimes women might be 100% qualified for a job but don’t feel that and don’t apply for those jobs. So I think creating a culture where people feel like they can take risks will help. It is a journey, it doesn't happen overnight but that’s a focus for us." -Steve Jones, CEO Dogwood State Bank
One of the execs spoke about their diversity council and how their women's initiative turned 20-years old. Another mentioned "younger people coming in who have a much more holistic view of the world." He referenced that as "the good news," and added: "What it takes is deciding: 'I'm going to help this person or these people, and it's a multiyear approach to it." He also spoke about the company's diversity council. "It's not just for black, white, it's for age, youth... it's all kinds of orientations. If you don't think that way today, you'll find yourself as the odd man out."