It is incredible to think about all of the changes experienced by women banking executives over the last 30 years.
The banking industry itself has undergone significant changes. New challenges and opportunities have presented themselves, and women have stepped up to the plate to grab their share of key influential roles. This is especially true in the enterprise risk world, a function that didn't even exist 10 years ago. And when it comes to mid-sized banks and regional banks, several women are leading the audit, risk management and regulatory compliance departments. Beyond this, women are also playing a key role in driving initiatives such as merger and acquisitions as well as the oversight of regulatory changes such as Basel III and Dodd-Frank reform.
No doubt women have worked hard over the last decade to land key executive roles in the banking world. This increased success and status has also ushered in new opportunities for women to participate on community and business boards. In fact, the recognition of women as strong board directors and the increasing demand for more female board directors has spawned specialized cultivation programs such as the Kellogg School of Management "Women's Director Development Program" and the Stanford University "Women on Boards" initiative.
Women have worked hard to earn their seat at the table and thrive in today's volatile business environment. Things like rising mobility and technological innovation have actually played well to our advantage, making it easier than ever to manage work and life schedules by facilitating travel and fostering remote working opportunities. Perhaps most importantly, an evolving appreciation and acceptance of different backgrounds be it gender, culture, geography, education or experience have driven the creation of truly diverse executive management teams and boards of directors. And the one thing today's most profitable and most trusted organizations all have in common is their celebration of diversity.
Looking back on my career, I attribute my success to a combination of factors, including hard work, a desire to succeed and a network of mentors who helped me along the way. Having mentors is especially important because when someone believes in you and supports you, your chances of success multiply.
Early in my career, my mentor was Adaire Peterson, who at the time served as the chief administrative officer at Northwestern National Bank, the predecessor to Norwest Bank in Minneapolis. She taught me to thoughtfully lay the groundwork for major internal change. A grassroots effort that engages key decision makers early on in the process is critical, so that when it's time to present your ideas at the big meeting, these stakeholders are already informed, supportive and ready to listen. We used this tactic to convince a team of executives to support our recommendation to implement Microsoft on company PCs. When we went into the big meeting to present our business case for doing so, one director actually asked, "Didn't we already approve this last month?"
Later in my career, I had another mentor, who became one of my biggest advocates. His name is Webb Edwards, and he was the president of Wells Fargo Services, a subsidiary of Wells Fargo & Co. He pushed me into jobs that were new at the time, including those in operational risk and strategic sourcing. These were roles with lots of uncharted territory, and the rules hadn't yet been written. Untraditional and unfamiliar, these were not roles many women executives were pushed into. But Edwards believed in me and Wells Fargo celebrated diversity, which helped me to be successful.
I think every successful woman in banking can look back on her career and identify a few people who pushed her to take risks, to disrupt the status quo and to think outside of the box. It is our job now to take on the role of mentor to one another, encouraging women everywhere to continue to push the envelope and to take jobs with uncharted territory, like those in risk management, social media, mobile banking and big data analytics. The opportunities are right there in front of us, and all we have to do now is go out and grab them.
Susan Palm is vice president of industry solutions at MetricStream, a provider of enterprise wide governance, risk, compliance and quality management solutions.