Despite gains in workplace diversity, women remain underrepresented in corporate leadership.
According to McKinsey, only one in four C-suite executives is a woman, and only one in 20 is a woman of color. Financial services see similar rates. Deloitte reports that women hold 24% of the leadership roles in the industry.
There isn't always a clear path to leadership for women. They often advance in their careers using their instincts—figuring it out as they go. We spoke with four BOK Financial® leaders about their unique and dynamic experiences as women in corporate America.
By sharing their stories, they hope to inspire and support other women who aspire to leadership roles in the financial industry.
Developing resilience is part of the job
Overcoming obstacles is part of being a leader, the women agreed. "I try to maintain a positive mindset, keep my target or goal in mind, and power through," said Carrie Clasen Porter, chief operations and administrative officer for wealth management, said, "We learn the most through the greatest challenges and when we have the courage to do the hard things to overcome them."
Mindy Mahaney, chief risk officer, echoed the importance of getting comfortable with difficulty. "I find every major job transition challenging," she said. "It's easy to be good at what you're good at and get comfortable in your current role, but when you are pushed outside of your comfort zone, you are really forced to think about why you are where you are.
"It's never easy, but the hard stuff is what makes us better. Getting to know a new team, new role, new boss, new office—all of these things are stressful, and no one likes to be the one who doesn't 'know' anything. You have to be OK with being uncomfortable, remember who you are, and work through it."
Being a working mom was an early challenge for Chief Marketing Officer Sue Hermann, and it continues to influence her leadership style. "When I was a first-time mom, I was determined to prove that nothing had changed and that I was still exactly the same person I was before I became a parent," she said. "I was killing myself. And when my daughter got sick—as babies will do—I debated whether I could dose her with Motrin, drop her off at daycare and work frantically for six hours until it wore off.
"I remember looking at myself in the bathroom mirror as I calculated when to dose her for maximum in-office time and not liking what I saw. I then realized that asking for help was not a character flaw and that I needed to be clear with my boss—and myself—that my family was my priority. I can't say that I 'overcame' the struggle to maintain that work/life balance, but I hope I've been a better manager for my teams along the way."
While obstacles are the norm, how you react to them defines you as a leader, according to Aerika Morris, client service director for the company's Institutional Wealth group. "I believe that resiliency yields confidence," she said. "Throughout my career, I have learned to have a short memory for past failures and a long memory for the lesson that the failure was there to teach me.
"I try my best never to make the same mistake twice in life—growing and learning from each past failure. It was through some of life's toughest experiences that I have had the opportunity to grow and learn the most."