Perception Problem: Women are serving on more U.K. corporate boards than ever — 26% of directors of companies on the Financial Times Stock Exchange 100 Index are female, a welcome improvement from 12.5% in 2010, according to Brenda Trenowden, global chair of the 30% Club (whose mission is to increase female representation in senior corporate leadership). But there's much more to be done, she told Bloomberg. The perception that the financial services industry is male-dominated remains an obstacle; the industry needs to find and retain more female role models and create a culture more favorable to women like, Trenowden said. She also spoke about the blatant sexism she faced as one of the few women in trading in 1991, how she opted to get used to it, and how she proved her commitment to her firm by holding a meeting with her team around her hospital bed as she recovered from a cesarean. "The thing that I learned was to be resilient," she said. "As long as you continue to deliver, that's the best defense you can have."

Maternity Leave Secrecy: Speaking of mothers at work: shortly before the July 29 release of Equity, the movie about women on the Street, three real-life Wall Street executives who advised the filmmakers were interviewed by New York magazine about their own experiences being pregnant while working in finance. Barbara Byrne, Barclays' vice-chairman of investment banking, said she fought to extend her maternity leave beyond the six weeks she was told she had. Former Lehman Brothers institutional bond salesperson Linda Zwack Munger said she felt treated fairly when her news broke but before that, she tried to conceal it. "You just kept very quiet until it was obvious that you were pregnant," she said. "You didn't talk about it. You held out as long as you could." Candy Straight, former Securitas Capital advisory director said, "I didn't have children, but many of my friends hid their pregnancies until the fifth or sixth month if they could."

Likability Complex: It seems like Equity has been all over the financial media lately, and causing a rehash of questions about female executives' likeability. In another interview, this time with USA Today, Byrne, the film's lead backer, said, "There isn't a woman who is accomplished in this world, in a powerful position or a position of influence, who hasn't been told, 'You know, you're rubbing people the wrong way,'" Byrne said, citing a line from the film directed at its protagonist. "It's funny how unlikable I was when I was running Merrill Lynch but how likable I was after I was fired," Sallie Krawcheck, another adviser on the film project, said in a recent panel discussion. She also cited research that found likability and success were positively correlated in men, but inversely correlated in women. "Just a few weeks ago, I was told after a meeting that I'd been overbearing," Byrne said on the same panel. "I said, 'Is that because I had an opinion or because I was correct?'"

Banking on Black Businesses: Carver Bancorp's chief lending officer, Blondel Pinnock, touted some of the bank's initiatives "to help people make their businesses more bankable," during a recent appearance on a New York radio program. The bank offers an education series for entrepreneurs and has an ongoing program with New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority to provide more capital to minority- and women-owned contractors. "The biggest barrier for small businesses, particularly contractors, is access to capital," she said. The bank launched a small business loans initiative earlier this year as a way to stay innovative through a series of setbacks since May.

Role Call

Digital Asset Holdings hired former RBS chief operating officer Carol Mathis to be chief financial officer. The blockchain startup also hired Kelly Mathieson, previously head of global collateral management and securities clearing at JPMorgan Chase, as product manager.

First Bank in Creve Coeur, Mo., has named Amanda Wallis to its board. Wallis' 42-year banking career includes leadership roles at Bank of America, U.S. Trust and American Express.

Sunflower Financial in Salina, Kan., has agreed to merge with Strategic Growth Bancorp in El Paso, Texas. Mollie Hale Carter, chairman and chief executive of Sunflower, will become co-chairman, president and CEO of the combined company and chairman and CEO of the bank. The deal is expected to be completed in the first quarter.

The Carlyle Group promoted Sandra J. Horbach to co-head of its main U.S. buyout arm, the first woman to oversee leveraged buyouts at a major firm.

Val Fick, a mortgage lender at Security State Bank in Fergus Falls, Minn., has retired, 48 years from the day she joined the bank as a secretary. About 10 years in, she transitioned to lending and marketing and she has been in her most recent role for 30 years. "I always thought of banking as numbers-only," Fick said. "I never considered it because I never liked math. But banking is way more than numbers. It's customer service, and that is what I like."

In Case You Missed It

Breaking Boundaries: Saudi Arabia historically holds some of the most repressive attitudes toward women, but Nahed Mohammad Taher, co-founder and CEO of Gulf One Investment Bank, is setting an example for other Saudi women as the first to serve as an investment bank CEO in the country. Taher, a former economist, recently expressed lofty goals for her region. "My ambition is to see the Saudi economy gain 20% per annum in real terms, and the unemployment rate drop to 1%. I actually have a special plan for that which makes this achievable," she said, adding that the "oil economy in its present situation can create 400,000 jobs during the next four years. The country badly needs two million jobs during this same period, and creating them represents the biggest challenge for the Kingdom.

Beyond Banking

Equality in the Church: Pope Francis set up a commission this week to study the role of female deacons in early Christianity. Decision-making roles in the Church are currently very limited for women and the Pope's predecessors ruled out opportunities for women to become priests. The newly formed commission will study the idea of giving women more say.

Make Some Noise: "Where there is sexism, making a fuss — though boring for both the person doing the complaining and for the person listening — is important," says an FT columnist. "If nothing is said, nothing changes." But has sexism been absent from journalism? She points to the endless scrutiny of Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, who famously took a two-week-long maternity leave when she had her first child and has been condemned by observers for supposedly being a bad mother. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, by contrast, has been praised for his ability to run his company as a new father. Seemingly on the plus side, the media ran 4,200 articles about Mayer in English last year, four times more than that of AOL CEO Tim Armstrong. "We are simply more interested in women CEOs and we will go on being more interested until there are more of them," the FT says. "This is not an advantage — the pressure is bad enough anyway without everyone reporting on your every move. It would be enough to make one do a Ms. Mayer, spend $500,000 of company money on private security guards — and generate yet another adverse story."

Please see our Women in Banking page and join our LinkedIn group.