KeyCorp chief executive Beth Mooney can't wait to be a footnote.

Accepting her award as the "most powerful woman in banking" at American Banker's annual awards dinner at the Waldorf Astoria on Thursday, Mooney anticipated a time when female leaders in the industry are so commonplace that gender is merely an afterthought.

"I look forward to the day that being the first female chief executive of a top 20 U.S. bank is a footnote, not the headline," she said, prompting a sea of colleagues--including her fellow Key award winners Amy Brady and Maria Coyne—to rise to a standing ovation.

For now, gender equality has yet to be achieved at the top of her field, Mooney said. While banking is a performance-driven industry and "women can deliver results just as well as men," she said, many qualified women never make it into to the C-suite.

That's a shame, Mooney said, because when women land positions of power, others are encouraged to believe they can rise. As evidence, she cited a letter she received when she became head of Cleveland-based Key in 2011. "I'll walk a little taller and feel a little prouder because I work for a company with a female CEO," the letter said.

Speaking the day after President Obama announced his decision to nominate Janet Yellen as chair of the Federal Reserve Bank, Mooney said her own spirits were buoyed at the prospect of the country's first female central bank chief.

"Seeing women get recognized for their work strikes a chord with other women," she said. With more and more women receiving the credit they deserve, she said, "I expect to have a lot more company" at the top soon.

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