So much has been written about the unique challenges women face in the workplace, from first person stories of gender bias, to hard facts based on years of statistics. But women in traditionally male-dominated fields like finance often keep concerns on the down-low, for various reasons—reasons they often keep to themselves.
At a recent summit in Wilmington, Delaware, four TD leaders took the stage for a candid session where they described the challenges they've faced and offered advice for overcoming them.
Societal change takes more time than we think
According to research, women represent 45 percent of the workforce, but when it comes to executive roles, the number is only 16 percent. "Twenty to 25 years ago, there was significant movement on those numbers, but not so much in the past 20 years," said Jenn Garrett, Nordstrom Partnership Program Executive, U.S. Partnerships. However, she noted some areas where there has been improvement, citing the number of women joining the workforce as well as employment in middle management. "The focus on diversity is really paying off," Jenn said, adding that the real difficulty lies in society creating flexibility for women to succeed. "It might take a generation or two to really move forward," she acknowledged.
The right candidate isn't always diverse
"Leaders—make sure you have a diverse candidate slate [when hiring]," said Stacy Onizuk, Head of Advanced Analytics, U.S. Partnerships. "We could do a better job working with recruiters to make sure that happens." That said, she believes we should focus on hiring the right candidate, regardless of gender or minority status or other protected class. "There needs to be a balance, but we need to be open minded when it comes to hiring people from different backgrounds."
You can't control someone's unconscious biases…
…but there are some things you *can* control. "If I want a job, I'm going to do my research, I'm going to be prepared and I'm going to be the best candidate they'll interview that day," Stacy said. "Find your inner mentor, and squash your inner critic," she offered, adding that women tend to listen to their critics the most. "Put your inner mentor on your shoulder…and go get it."
Women have unconscious biases, too
Before posting a role, Lindsay Sacknoff, Head of U.S. Contact Centers, said she has conversations with all types of people. "On average, a woman will say 'I really want to think about that,' whereas men say, 'Count me in!'" In the past, when these roles posted, Lindsay found herself reaching out to the men. "I never heard back from the women." She acknowledged that she unconsciously started out with a slate of candidates that was less diverse than it should have been. "Now that I'm aware of this, once I post a job, I approach women and say 'I really think you should apply.'"
Danielle Vincent, Head of Merchant Account Management added, "Don't make assumptions," and told the story of a big move she made with her family when she had the opportunity to take on a new role at the Bank. "The executives at the helm knew I had two young kids," she revealed, but added that, luckily, someone spoke up and said "Don't speak for her."
Women sometimes need to "show up" differently
"Nine times out of 10, I'm the only woman in the room," Danielle revealed, adding "I'll research my sports highlights- I want to join the conversation." But she added that some people might just be quiet.
"When women see a job description," Stacy added, "they think they have to meet 100 percent of the qualifications to apply." By comparison, statistics show that men will apply for a job when they believe they have just 60 percent of these skills. Stacy suggested that if women don't meet all of the qualifications, they should consider what else they bring to the table. "Figure out how your experience can fit in, and if you really feel passionate, go for it."
"Networking" is more than just a buzzword
"You need to network all the time, with people who are different than you," said Lindsay. She suggested that everyone think about a time that works for them—early morning, lunchtime or late in the day—and find someone who's different than you to have a meal or coffee. "If you start to do that, you'll see that your network begins to grow, and when you have that role to fill, you'll know who to reach out to."
We all have blind spots
"For every role I hire for, I pick at least three different people to interview the candidate," Lindsay said Even though she's the one who makes the call, she values these perspectives. "Not only am I learning," she added, "but these other people are learning as well, and expanding their networks."