* Connie Landry Executive vice president Western Bank of Clovis, New Mexico President Financial Women's Association
I do believe there is a glass ceiling in the banking industry, but a considerable amount of progress has been made.
I think it's been a good industry for women in some respects. For years, women ran the institutions in the back offices and didn't get the credit they were entitled to. But I have been in the industry for 19 years, and in that time I have seen great progress in women moving higher up into the ranks of management.
I remember when I was first made a vice president and then a senior vice president at Bank East in New Hampshire. It came with an added sense of responsibility of "don't foul it up for the women who might come after me." I've always felt that responsibility.
What women should do is learn as much as they can about their job responsibilities and about other jobs that they aspire to. A mentor can help, but it's not a necessity. Women have to demonstrate that they are competent and capable of handling other jobs within their banks.
* Martha N. Wilkinson Senior vice president First Chicago Corp.
Yes, there is a glass ceiling. There's no question about that. Even the white men that typically run the banks acknowledge that, and they are trying to address it.
We need to work very hard to help senior managers understand the barriers we face.
For example, people tend to hire people with whom they feel comfortable or whom they know - in other words, people from their networks. That has been a major barrier for women. Some men won't take a risk and hire a woman they do not know. They might hire a man they, don't know, but not a woman they don't know. That's true when choosing people for upward as well as lateral moves. So a woman may not get the exposure that a man gets from making lateral moves.
Another barrier is men may not take women seriously. All of these behaviors may be subconscious. That's why they are so difficult to deal with.
We need to work selflessly with one another to advance our own careers, and we need to work hard to earn the promotions if and when the opportunities finally do arise.
I think banks in general are better than other corporations. I have been at the bank for 15 years, and there are more women in senior positions now than there were earlier. But while things have gotten better, progress has slowed over the past few years.
* Barbara Ralston Executive vice president and chief operating officer Chase Bank Arizona, Scottsdale
I think there continues to be a glass ceiling, and it's being complicated by a flattening of organizations that is going on. I've been around for 20 years, and there's more competition today for every position than there has ever been before. People are being recognized for their own merits and are not being judged by gender.
But females are having a tougher time. That's because there have always been less opportunities for them to develop and demonstrate their leadership abilities. The special assignments where people could shine were given to men, so they are being chosen for the good jobs now. The past is still catching up with us.
I'm not sure the strategies we had in place in the past are effective anymore. The whole issue now is, how do you give women the opportunity to develop and demonstrate the leadership skills they need to break the glass ceiling.?
Women can help themselves by asking for the tough assignments. And they should use community organizations and executive associations to exhibit their leadership skills.
Creating visibility is really the key. When there are two qualified people for a job, the person whom you have had exposure to is the one you are going to pick.