Rising to a leadership position as a woman in a male-dominated industry comes with unique challenges. We asked four BOK Financial® leaders to share their insights and advice. From cultivating a support network to taking risks before you're ready, these women offer practical tips for the next generation of leaders.
The gift of friends, mentors and role models
Early support from other women was instrumental to their success, the BOK Financial leaders said, especially when working in male-dominated industries.
"I started my career and pretty much grew up in a world of majority men, so I didn't have a lot of women role models," said Mindy Mahaney, chief risk officer. "I had a close friend when I worked in public accounting who believed that it was a hard place for women to work and be successful while also having a family. She always had great ideas about how things should be and how they would be if she were in charge—and she did it.
Mahaney has been inspired by her going out on her own, starting her own company and making it a 'family-friendly and -focused' environment. "She's been super successful along the way—I love how she had an idea, took a risk and made it happen."
"I feel incredibly fortunate to have many great women who have shared their journeys, insights and talents along the way—and that's what inspires me the most—how they give of themselves to lift up those around them," said Carrie Clasen Porter, chief operations and administrative officer for wealth management.
Chief Marketing Officer Sue Hermann's inspiration is closer to home. "My mom always used to say that what she wanted most for my two sisters and me was to be able to stand on our own two feet," she shared. "She had gone from being someone's daughter to being someone's wife and wanted to make sure we could take care of ourselves. That made a lasting impression on me."
Aerika Morris, client service director for the company's Institutional Wealth group, was also inspired early on by the matriarchs in her family. "My mother and grandmothers were amazing leaders, and I have learned so much from them and the women in my family, including the many ways that you can serve as a leader," she said.
Advice for the next generation of women leaders
As workplaces become more inclusive, more women will ascend to the top leadership positions in corporate America. The BOK Financial leaders offer advice for women rising the ranks behind them.
"Your career is made up of many different stages," reflected Mahaney. Give yourself grace and forgiveness for the areas of your life that suffer during those different phases. We can have it all, but we will not be our best selves in all the different areas of our lives."
"Invest in your circle," suggested Clasen Porter. "Build relationships with those around you who you trust, admire and who are willing to support your growth—and do the same to support their journey."
"Reach up for the next opportunity, don't wait for someone to ask you," encouraged Hermann. "Reach out to others to ask for help, advice and feedback. And reach back for those earlier in their journey and offer a helping hand, a word of advice or an opportunity."
Morris also suggested starting before you're ready. "Take risks and never be afraid of failure. Be confident. Be bold. Be excellent. Be self-aware. Be humble. Be yourself," she said. "Remember that you have been uniquely and wonderfully made to serve a specific purpose on this earth that no one other than you can fulfill. Be positive, show empathy and be kind to others. Be both graceful and thoughtful in your gestures to others. Always remember to thank those who helped you and be quick to resolve conflicts, as they are sure to arise."