Group Head, Debt Capital Markets | KeyBanc Capital Markets

With market volatility at the beginning of the year, and the acquisition of First Niagara Financial Group completed at midyear, 2016 was especially busy for Amy Carlson.

Carlson is the top female executive at KeyBanc Capital Markets, the corporate and investment banking division of KeyCorp. The unit provides corporate banking, capital markets and advisory solutions to emerging and middle-market companies in a variety of industries.

The team led by Carlson — who has been in her current position since 2006 — includes more than 100 people who raised over $179 billion in debt capital for clients in 2016. The $179 million in revenue they delivered fell short of the record $198 million in 2015, but still outperformed every other year.

Carlson said that recruiting and retaining top-notch talent is crucial to the success of the business. She is involved in developing a recruiting program that targets young women seeking careers in investment banking. This year, KeyBanc welcomed about 30 women from universities across the country to participate in the two-day program, up 20% from last year.

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In the effort to get more women into the senior ranks, having visible role models helps, and Carlson said she herself feels encouraged by KeyCorp's Chairman and CEO Beth Mooney. But the industry overall still struggles.

"I'm struck by the fact that there is much more to do in terms of women in 'top ranks,' " she said. "As you look at coming retirements as well, the need for continued efforts to attract, retain, mentor and sponsor women in our business is more critical than ever. Those efforts must be driven by women in our business, but joined in by men as well."