No deal: Maria Contreras-Sweet, the former head of the Small Business Administration under President Obama and the founder of the Latino-focused ProAmerica Bank, withdrew her $500 million deal to take over the troubled Weinstein Co. She reportedly got angry about New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s insistence on having a monitor on the board of the company — a side agreement that was negotiated and agreed upon without her in the room. She had been in exclusive talks to buy the company for weeks and had worked out a deal to appoint a majority-female board, avoid Chapter 11 bankruptcy, preserve the jobs of 200 people, compensate the victims of alleged abuse by Harvey Weinstein (with about $50 million in profits from five future movies), oust his brother, Bob, and pay nothing to either of them. So much for that.

Maria Contreras-Sweet, former head of the Small Business Administration under President Obama.
Maria Contreras-Sweet, former head of the Small Business Administration under President Obama Bloomberg News


Staying mum about #MeToo: American Banker recently asked the 20 largest U.S. banks a few basic questions about their sexual harassment policies, including whether they have made any tweaks since the rise of the #MeToo movement. Of the 15 that responded, nearly all refused to offer anything other than a broad corporate statement insisting that they are committed to equality. Ok, guess we’ll just have to take your word for that, right? Based on feedback from the few that shared details (thanks, Ally and Regions), and some outside consultants, one change that banks are making to their sexual harassment training is to teach onlookers to speak up in the moment and call out demeaning behavior. This is important because offenders are not likely to stop, regardless of the training in place. “This won’t shock you, but training doesn’t really work for people who are likely to be harassers,” said Joelle Emerson, CEO of the diversity and inclusion consultant Paradigm. Ally has added a “sensitivity training” course with a session called “difficult conversations” that helps employees talk about sensitive topics; and Regions created a mandatory training course on sexual harassment, called “Respect in the Workplace,” that employees can complete online.

Oh, honey, you’re just too sensitive: An internal recruiter at Steven A. Cohen’s private investment firm Point72 Asset Management has filed a discrimination lawsuit alleging that she is paid two-thirds less than her male counterparts. Lauren Bonner also allegedly suffered a string of day-to-day offenses, including being “forced to gather several times in a room where Point72’s president, Douglas Haynes, had allegedly written ‘PUSSY’ on a whiteboard,” according to a lawsuit filed in federal court in Manhattan. Female employees are “routinely denied promotions and regularly forced out after male executives accuse them of being ‘too emotional’ or ‘too sensitive’” or of creating some concern from their wives, the lawsuit says. There are supposedly “no girls allowed” in certain meetings either. Across the firm, 21% of new hires last year were female, and the female hires were mostly for junior roles. Only one out of 125 portfolio managers at Point72 is a woman, the lawsuit says.

When less is more: We need more, not fewer, community banks, says Rebeca Romero Rainey, the president and CEO-elect at the Independent Community Bankers of America and owner of Centinel Bank in Taos, N.M. Community banks are more highly capitalized than large institutions, better equipped for economic downturns as a result and their local focus and accountability make them distinctly pro-consumer. They also operate in areas many large banks won’t, and in nearly one in five U.S. counties are the only physical banking presence. “Cheerleading mergers and acquisitions is no ‘survival strategy’ for community banks,” said Rainey, who succeeds Camden Fine in the ICBA role. "We’ve consolidated enough. Instead, tailoring our regulatory system and easing the compliance burden will help promote access to financial services that puts customers and local communities first.”

Podcast

Dollars and sense: In the latest American Banker podcast, Natasha Lamb, the activist investor who got a handful of major financial service companies to publish their adjusted gender pay gaps, explains why gender diversity matters to the bottom line. She also talks about how changing the bro culture takes time, even in a #MeToo era. (The latest company to comply with her compensation analysis request is Mastercard, which, like the others, found a 1% disparity between what men and women are paid for the same jobs and pledged to remedy the gap.)

Natasha Lamb is managing director, lead filer of gender pay resolutions and portfolio manager at Arjuna Capital
Natasha Lamb, managing director at Arjuna Capital, has been pressuring banks to disclose their gender pay gaps.


Role call

SunTrust is promoting Allison Dukes to chief financial officer, effective March 31. Dukes has been head of commercial and business banking since last April and will replace outgoing CFO Aleem Gillani, who is retiring.

BMO Harris Bank has plucked Erminia (Ernie) Johannson from its Canadian parent to run one of its key business units. She will lead the U.S. strategy for personal and business banking as group head. She also will have oversight of North American retail and small-business payments, and the North American fraud team. One of her tasks will be to help expand digital offerings like People Pay, a peer-to-peer service distributed through BMO’s mobile payments app. The position is based in Chicago, which is the headquarters for the U.S. subsidiary of Toronto-based BMO Financial Group.

Mastercard has promoted JoAnn Stonier to the newly created position of chief data officer. She was previously the company’s chief information governance and chief privacy officer.

Former Goldman Sachs executive and ex-deputy national security adviser Dina Powell is joining Harvard University as a non-resident senior fellow. Powell spent nearly a decade at Goldman before joining the Trump administration, where she helped drive Middle East policy.

Beyond banking

Misinformation about moms: Rather than shaming single mothers and blaming them for the poverty rates, the U.S. government should find ways to help them flourish. Policies implemented in Denmark put single mothers and their children on a similar level of economic security as other families. There are four major risks of poverty – besides single motherhood, they are unemployment, low levels of education, and forming households at young ages. But single-mother families make up a very small share of the U.S. population. “Ultimately, there simply aren’t enough single mothers to explain our high poverty,” scientists wrote in the New York Times. “Even if they all married or never had children, poverty would not be substantially lower. We should stop obsessing over how many single mothers there are and stop shaming them.”

The motherhood penalty: Not everything is a dream in Scandinavia, despite its reputation for generous social policies. The region’s gender pay gap is similar to the one in the U.S. — women who work full time make 15% to 20% less than their male counterparts. In both parts of the world the cause for this is motherhood. The solution isn’t just a policy matter, though. Research suggests if men assume new parent behaviors the way women do — spending more time on parenting responsibilities and taking advantage of parental leave, which in Scandinavia is especially generous – they could help close the pay gap. For example, Denmark gives new parents a year off and, even though mothers and fathers can share most of it, men only take two weeks on average. There was a pay gap before people had children, but research shows that, after having their first child, women suffered a 30% drop in their gross earnings and never fully recovered. Over the long term, mothers earn 20% less. “If you know that both men and women will go off and take care of children, not just women, what that does is remove the motherhood penalty,” said Heejung Chung, a sociologist at the University of Kent.

Madame Presidents: The New Yorker’s Emily Nussbaum shared an image of U.S. presidents recast as women, using a popular new app that shows what users would look like as their opposite gender. “It’s oddly emotional to look at bc the women look so familiar,” Nussbaum tweeted. “This is what it would be like if older women were our role models & leaders ... & imagine if they were racially varied as well. It's such a psychological jolt.” Check out the conversation below.


If you missed last week’s newsletter — which featured Ally’s Diane Morais – you can find it here.

You can subscribe by going to our Women in Banking homepage, scrolling down to where it says “join our mailing list,” and entering your email address.

Bonnie McGeer contributed to this report.

BankThink submission guidelines

BankThink is American Banker's platform for informed opinion about the ideas, trends and events reshaping financial services. View our detailed submission criteria and instructions.