This year’s International Women’s Day theme has a resounding call, #EmbraceEquity — “The aim of the IWD 2023 #EmbraceEquity campaign theme is to get the world talking about Why equal opportunities aren't enough. People start from different places, so true inclusion and belonging require equitable action..” At Queensborough, our team is committed to meeting this worthy challenge!
We continuously strive to nurture an environment where diversity, equity, and inclusion are encouraged. Equity and equality are both essential for providing a healthy and inclusive workplace for your employees. The terms are often used interchangeably, but they are distinct.
Banking has traditionally been an inclusive environment for women professionals. It’s not uncommon for some banks to have a staff comprised of up to 70% female employees. However, in many instances, these very same banks have a disproportionately male C-suite. This is beginning to change; with new programs and educational opportunities—more women are in leadership roles.
Why Is it Important to Have Representation for Women in Banking?
Women may comprise a large percentage of banking professionals, but they do not always occupy leadership roles. It is key for any industry to provide equal representation for balance, stability, and prductivity.
Over the last 15 years, Kim Kirk, Queensborough’s EVP & Chief Operations Officer, has seen a positive shift in this direction. Currently, there are a lot more women holding senior and executive positions than when she first started. However, she believes there is always room for improvement in all industries. Kim emphasizes that more women should be encouraged to follow any career path they choose, even if it is for a role that is seen as traditionally male. Personally, Kim decided early on that she would become an advocate for women professionals. Since then, she has lent her support to any initiatives that would improve the growth and learning opportunities for women in business.
"Today’s young people have the desire to learn; it’s up to us as established professionals to provide them with training, guidance, and opportunities to further their education and team leading skills"- Kim Kirk
Additionally, Sheryl Reed, Queensborough’s EVP & Chief Human Resource Officer, is of the same opinion and has seen the progression of women’s representation throughout her career. When she first started in the banking industry, Sheryl experienced an environment where women were often forced to choose between their family responsibilities and their careers. In recent times, she has found that there has been both a societal and corporate shift when it comes to women in the workplace. Today, the financial industry is creating more space for women to advance into senior positions.
"Since the pandemic, family dynamics are changing for the better! They have become more akin to what I’ve seen when working with international clients. It is now more common for men to help around the house, pick up children from school, and handle household duties. This gives women the opportunity to dedicate time to advancing their careers." - Sheryl Reed
With the changes brought on by the pandemic, Sheryl has also noticed that a combination of remote work, remote schooling, and shared responsibility for household duties between spouses has given many career women greater opportunities. More women are able to explore ways to further their education, attend seminars, and spend time networking with other professionals.
Advice from Queensborough Women Leaders
It may feel like a big step to take on a leadership role in the financial sector, but it doesn’t have to be. While becoming established in your career will require all the obvious requisites, such as time, effort, and dedication, there are other factors. Sheryl and Kim attribute their success to quality mentors, strong support networks, and constant learning opportunities.
"I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for the networks I’ve built along the way. From early on, I made it my mission to connect with other women professionals that I could look up to." - Kim Kirk
This year, our bank has increased our educational and development budget to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to progress in their role and become skilled in areas that will help them advance to leadership positions. We also encourage our managers to mentor our employees, so they are afforded the opportunity to learn from our established team members.
"While I believe that it’s important to focus on your own career, it can be highly beneficial to share your wealth of knowledge with the next generation of people in your industry. These young people are eager to learn, and you can make a big difference in their lives by being a mentor, a teacher, or simply an objective listener." - Sheryl Reed
When it comes to women obtaining senior positions in the sector, there is still a "glass ceiling," but with the right resources and the right mindset, we can all make a difference. And by supporting this objective bank-wide, we’re confident that together it will also help to create an environment where embracing equity just feels right!
So on behalf of Queensborough, happy International Women’s Day to you all!