The San Francisco Bay Area attracted nationwide attention with two important news events this year. Janet Yellen, a former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, became the first woman to lead the Fed. And this summer, many Bay Area Internet giants, including Google, Facebook, Twitter and Yahoo, made a point of disclosing the gender makeup of their workforces and in some cases the makeup of their leadership.
As the head of retail banking at a bank headquartered in San Francisco, I found these two seemingly unrelated events particularly relevant to our industry, where the majority of employees are women. More than 70% of Bank of the Wests team members across digital banking and 600-plus branches are women.So these news events prompted me to reflect on the banking industrys performance when it comes to the hiring and advancement of women.
A recent article for The Atlantic by Adrienne LaFrance discusses the wave of disclosures this summer by top Internet and technology companies of workforce composition showing that roughly 70% of their employees are men. The official data confirms what the companies revealed. The most recent figures from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission show that in the Internet publishing and broadcasting and web search portals industry, women represented 35% of the entire workforce in 2012, 33% of mid-level officials and managers and 23% of senior-level officials and managers. Meanwhile, women represented 31% of the software industrys workforce, 28% of mid-level officials and managers and 20% of senior-level officials and managers.
How does our industry compare? EEOC numbers for commercial banking show women made up 58% of the workforce, 49% of mid-level officials and managers and 30% of senior-level officials and managers in 2012. While we compare favorably to some sectors with regards to diversity, we are all aware of the calls to do more within financial services. As a PriceWaterhouseCoopers report called Mending the Gender Gap: Advancing Tomorrows Women Leaders in Financial Services states, Although gender diversity has come far when compared with past decades, the progress made in the last several years has been painfully slow.
In my role at Bank of the West and as the chairman of the Consumer Bankers Association, I interact frequently with regulators and others in the federal government. A recent report from the Office of Personnel Management noted that women made up 46% of the federal workforce in 2012, one-third of members in the governments Senior Executive Service and 36% of supervisors and managers.
I think all of us would agree that any effort to bring about change has to focus on data, because knowing the current state of affairs is essential. Transparency and the disclosure of employment figures including the gender or ethnic composition of an industrys workforce can help advance the conversation. Visibility is frequently a catalyst to move to a better place. Sharing data is just one aspect of the discussion, but as the Bay Area showed this summer, publicity about workforce composition clearly spurred a constructive conversation about cultivating more diverse workers and leaders in the tech and Internet sectors.
The conversation that began with Googles disclosures was a great reminder that our own industry should not silo itself on topics such as workforce diversity. All of corporate America and the public sector have to work harder to promote diversity in hiring and in filling leadership roles. The workforce diversity challenges of Internet and software companies may quickly become banking industry challenges as we increasingly recruit for technology experts to advance online and mobile banking initiatives.
What gives me optimism about the banking industry are role models like Janet Yellen and many other firsts: Yellen as the first woman to head the Federal Reserve; Angela Merkel as the first woman to serve as chancellor of Germany and as the de facto leader of the European Union; Christine Lagarde, the first woman to be managing director of the International Monetary Fund; and Elvira Nabiullina, the first woman to head the Central Bank of Russia.
These women are some of the most powerful leaders in the world and should be role models for all of us, just as Cheryl Sandberg, Meg Whitman, Marissa Mayer and others are helping drive men and women in their companies and industries to push for diversity.
The banking industry and the information technology industry are two high-profile sectors of the global economy. Silicon Valley has begun the diversity conversation by focusing on disclosure. Showing the data is essential to shining a spotlight on the subject of diversity and will be valuable for measuring progress in coming years.
Likewise, acknowledging the accomplishments of great leaders and teams can show us the way and drive us to do more. Today our industry has role models at the highest levels of power globally to inspire all of us.
Andy Harmening is senior executive vice president for the regional banking group at Bank of the West. He is also immediate past chair of the Consumer Bankers Association.