In partnership with Talk Business & Politics and the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal, I’m thrilled to report that the Girl Banker Podcast is now LIVE on Apple iTunes and right here at thegirlbanker.com! Click the images below to access the podcasts on Apple iTunes or visit the Podcast page of the Girl Banker Blog to watch them!
Episode 2: Kirsten Blowers Morman Listen in as girl boss Kirsten Blowers Morman, owner and buyer of ShopRiffRaff.com, RiffRaff Fayetteville, City Supply store fronts, and Friday x Saturday and Charlie Southern brands talks all things small business and mom life. Her startup story will inspire you! Bank marketers take note: it all started with selling her items on Facebook and then adjusting to Instagram.
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The Girl Banker Blog is fortunate to have guest blog writers that offer a different, yet much needed perspective to this space of advocacy. I’m honored to post this personal account submitted by a very respected girl banker that wishes to remain anonymous. I know my readers will benefit from reading her story.
Disclosure: The anonymity of the author is designed to provide protection from judgement for her and those closest to her, not provide power to those who still embrace common stereotypes. The truth is that stereotyping, unconscious biases and uninformed judgments occur whether we like them or not and accepting that fact to protect future opportunities is not weakness, simply self-preservation.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a breadwinner is defined as: a means (such as a tool or craft) of livelihood or a member of a family whose wages supply its livelihood. With breadwinning comes a level of pressure that no one explains; especially to women. Or at least no one explained it to me. Complicating matters is the fact that the financial gender balance within marriage seems to be changing at a faster pace than society’s attitudes about successful women. “Breadwinning is still more often seen as a father’s role than a mother’s,” according to the Pew Research Center. About 40% Americans believe it’s extremely important for a father to provide income for his children, but just 25% said the same of mothers. Breadwinning, much like bread baking (maybe just my bread baking), doesn’t always turn out exactly how you envision.
In school, I was intrinsically motivated to do the best I could in school in order to get a good job as soon as possible. I didn’t need to get out of my house or necessarily start working very young, but I wanted to. My focus began to pay off in my early twenties as I begin to slowly climb the hourly wage scale at the local bank where I started working in High School at $5.75 an hour. After graduating college, I got my first job that wasn’t behind the teller line in a bank where I was making $15 an hour. My first review in my new role produced a small, but satisfying raise of $.75 an hour. I was 22, pursuing an MBA and in my first specialized role in my area of study. I had no illusions my entry level job would immediately provide me with big bucks, besides, it is supposed to be about getting the experience, right? When I conveyed my raise at home to my spouse, it was met with disdain over the low dollar amount. Not only his perception of small amount of the raise, but questioning of my desire to work at what he saw as too small of an annual amount as well. I now wish I would have had the foresight to understand how much of a problem my compensation and all the emotions that go along with it was going to be throughout the course of our marriage. Hindsight being 20/20 as they say – this is the moment when I made the decision to climb the corporate ladder softly and rise quietly as best I could. I am not saying money doesn’t matter when it comes to a job, but I was raised to understand that money is earned over time for value provided. Naturally, I had not provided a ton of value to my employer because I was fresh out of college. When I began to provide value, hopefully the money would follow. While that is also somewhat of a naïve thought as well, it’s the hope I clung to in the early years. The minute my job, career aspirations and contributions were minimized, was the moment money became clearly identifiable as a sign of power within our relationship. I have never intended to not be a contributor to my family, but I also didn’t expect to be completely dismissed as an equal partner if the numbers didn’t align evenly.
Fast forward 10 years and I had been presented with and taken some incredible career opportunities. Working with a team I admired, adored and respected, we accomplished some pretty amazing things. I was doing my best to play big at work, but I had admittedly been playing small at home for years. My marriage was as a good as a marriage 10 years in could be I thought, and one where we no longer talked about money. Our business had hit a rough patch (understatement of the decade) and I had taken over our personal finances years earlier and it became a topic we didn’t/couldn’t discuss. I had always paid our personal bills and kept my salary, title and/or other work details to myself. He was having a hard enough time coping with life in general, so I was careful not to make it worse by doing anything to somehow remind him I was now the sole breadwinner for our family.
Our first child arrived ten years into our marriage, fifteen years into our relationship. Babies change everything, including everyone’s expectations about roles within your marriage. I now understood why the stereotypes were so universally accepted and clear. More than ever before, I craved a safety net around the bubble that was our life. According to research by Merrill Edge, uncertain times may impact people’s priorities. Some 54% of men and 57% of women say they want a partner who provides financial security over love. The economic impact of our business failure paired with a new baby left a mark that changed my opinion forever about what was more important in my relationship. I found myself a member of the 57%.
The idea that men are to support their families while women take care of the children is still alive and well in many families, particularly in the south, but honestly that wasn’t our perspective. In fact, that stereotype paints a really simple picture of these roles and all their nuances. This was anything but simple. We never set out or planned for me to be the breadwinner, it just happened. Not having a plan or discussion about what to do if it every happened proved to be a problem. Because we were unprepared on the challenges that come with a role reversal, neither party knew how to handle the shift. I felt unappreciated and small because I couldn’t share happy job moments or milestones with the person I wanted to while he felt small because I loved my career and was successful while he was struggling to find a second chance at a career. My success made him feel like a failure, so in turn, we both felt small. No one enjoyed the situation and we were struggling to dig out of the hole. Any contribution he had the opportunity to make was never good enough in his opinion, because it didn’t match mine. His ego was unable to process the fact that there was strong likelihood his salary would never match mine again. I had devoted myself to my job for almost 15 years and he was starting over. Sweat equity over time was on my side and I wanted to feel great about earning my seat at the table, yet I found myself continuously apologizing for it.
As we got older, I wanted to feel safe and secure and know we could provide the life needed for a baby to grow and thrive. This is the exact point when no longer discussing money was not an option. Every time I would bring it up, guilt would somehow shut the discussion down. I felt guilty for providing because he would get so upset about me having to provide. Every conversation was turned from our financial future and well-being to an emotional firestorm designed to demolish any attempt at progress. The fact was from my perspective, I was handling everything – what was left of his career aspirations, my career, our family finances, the baby and the housework. I began to understand that not only did he resent my success, but I resented it too. I had poured my heart and soul into a company and people I believed in, and hadn’t felt comfortable talking about it. The narrative of our marriage had centered around him while my job had quietly risen into a successful career I minimized at every opportunity.
I realize I was/am ashamed of my success. Ashamed because it played a role in ending my marriage. It was not the sole cause of its demise, but it played a key role in the dominoes cascading downward. I knew to provide for my family the way I was determined to do meant I would always be the primary breadwinner. I didn’t mind being the primary breadwinner if my partner was okay with being the primary caregiver, but that wasn’t our story. The support he feigned for my career in public was superficial at best and my success was one of the biggest daggers he had in his arsenal behind closed doors. Before the situation was all said and done – he would make sure I understood in no uncertain terms that my success was the reason for everything bad in our life during our years together.
Out earning my spouse was not the primary cause of our divorce. However, it did play a significant role. I share this story because I understand now that it’s okay it didn’t turn out picture perfect. I see so many great women who have supportive husbands cheering them on, helping them succeed and being the rock of their relationships in a million other ways and that is amazing. I also know that success can come to those of us who don’t have that either. Success can be achieved professionally even if the situation personally is less than ideal. I tell my story so you can prepare yourself if you start to see those warning signs in your relationship. I had not disclosed any raise or promotion in my working career for almost eight years before our divorce. The difference between the last salary he laughed at me for making and what I was making when we signed divorce papers was substantial.
Don’t allow another person, whether you love them or not, force you to feel small. Women are wired to want security, safety and nurturing, but we can also be driven, ambitious and strong. It took me way too long to realize that I didn’t have to sacrifice one for the other. I can provide the safety net for myself now, which is a different type of satisfying. I am not advocating divorce or staying single forever. I am simply advocating for you to know that breadwinning comes with a host of emotional complications you need to be prepared to manage in your personal life. Have the conversations early on in a relationship. Find out if your significant other can handle if you ever make more than him or her. We never had the conversation because we never thought it would be a reality. That was a mistake on both of our parts.
Both of us had unconscious expectations of who would be the breadwinner. When I became the breadwinner, there was no victory lap from either party. The slow demise of our views of each other began to accelerate. He saw me as selfish, uncaring and insensitive to his emotional needs. I thought I was trying to help by not talking about it, when in reality, that began to breed resentment about his inability to truly see my contributions and the toll taking care of everything was having on me. The bottom line is no one felt like they were winning. I won’t apologize for my success, but I do see the price we both paid for it, despite my best efforts to neutralize it as a threat.
The best explanation and advice I have seen on this subject comes to us from David T. Pisarra, a father’s rights lawyer in Los Angeles who has a great deal of experience dealing with male clients in the past who experienced problems in their marriages. When asked whether a female breadwinner can ultimately lead to divorce, he responded, “In today’s world, yes, being the female breadwinner can lead to divorce, but not because she is earning money, but because the parties haven’t had a discussion about what their goals and roles are. A marriage is more than a romance — it is a business as well. And the obligations and duties of the partners need to be discussed and clarified so that everyone is on the same page. What causes problems is not one spouse making more money than the other, because as women have noted for centuries, the role of homemaker is not a cushy one. The contributions of the parties to the family may be unequal in terms of dollars, but be equalized by value of the emotional support or domestic duties that make a household run smoothly.”
Everyone’s story is different. Yet we still all naturally lean towards sharing only the most positive of stories about ourselves. This story didn’t end the way anyone wanted it to, but valuable lessons were learned by all and that still matters. No matter the path, women can be the breadwinner, the nurturer, the organizer, the caregiver and the revenue driver. Check on the women in your life. Regardless of their story, help every woman around you rise.
Welcome back to one of my favorite blog series, ‘Girl Banker in the Making’! The purpose of this series is to highlight young women just getting their start in the banking industry as a means to motivate other young women to consider banking as a career path. The best part about ‘Girl Banker in the Making’ is that the post is authored by the young woman being highlighted in an effort to journal her own girl banker story.
Alyssa Hermann | Commercial Lender | Presidential Bank
I was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. I graduated from Saint Louis University with a BSBA in finance in 2013 and an MBA with an entrepreneurship concentration in 2014. As a Billiken, I had the chance to study abroad in Rome and Hong Kong, work in the Office of Admission and for the Institute of Private Business and serve as a member of Delta Sigma Pi business fraternity.
Throughout high school and undergrad my plan was to get involved with the local construction company that my grandfather started in 1972 and my dad was running at the time. I grew up around this business and worked there for seven summers during 2005 – 2012. I saw it as a great opportunity and was confident I could be successful in the male dominated business.
In the middle of my MBA program, my family decided that my dad would sell his interest in the business and exit the company. I had a front row seat to the challenging dynamics of family businesses while I worked to put “Plan B: Financial Advisor” in place.
After a financial advising internship followed by a year in an internal accounting position at a wealth management firm, I was recruited to fill a commercial credit analyst role at Parkside Financial Bank & Trust. Parkside is a community bank that was founded in 2008 and caters to the privately-held middle market commercial and industrial lending space. It was a privilege to begin my banking career surrounded by top talent and incredible mentors in an engaging culture of collaboration and transparency. I spent three years at Parkside and ultimately advanced into a Commercial Banking Officer position before relocating from St. Louis to Washington, DC in May 2018.
The DC market is heavily focused on real estate, government contracting, and non-profits compared to St. Louis which is more manufacturer, distributor, and service provider centric. My current focus in DC is continuing to learn the nuances of the market in an evolving banking climate while building out my local network.
Commercial lending was never promoted as a career path to me. I was fortunate to stumble into it and very quickly realized that it was the perfect fit for me. It gives me just the right balance of numbers and people, and it allows me the opportunity to work with businesses like the family construction company I grew up in. I love having the chance to look at a wide variety of industries. Even more, I enjoy building relationships with business leaders and working with them to structure financing that will help them achieve their goals. Serving as a strategic banking partner is exceptionally fulfilling, especially when I see the results in my local community.
While the industry is still male dominated, progress is being made toward inclusivity thanks in part to platforms like The Girl Banker. I am highly committed to the professional growth and development of young talent and women in the industry and would like to encourage anyone interested to reach out and connect.
Recently, I had a male bank CEO reach out to me regarding his frustration in getting his high performing female employees to consider promotions or accepting additional responsibilities. He emphasized that he recognized the need to promote women within his organization and identified three specific women who, based on their skill sets, work ethic, and knowledge, were perfect for the positions he had available. I was shocked when he revealed to me that they weren’t interested in the positions and ultimately turned him down. I asked him to put his experience into a guest blog post but he requested to remain anonymous in an effort to protect his employees who turned down the opportunity.
From the Desk of A Male CEO | We’re Trying Harder Than You Think
I grew up in a Christian home with a family of 4 in the south. We didn’t have lavish vehicles or fancy homes, but we didn’t go without. We lived about 10 minutes outside of town on 5 acres. My parents kept me busy with chores, sports, and homework. Every summer beginning at age 12 I would work for my father’s construction business mostly cleaning jobsites and doing chores that didn’t require much technical skill. But I was extremely pleased to make the $3/hour I was paid. He always let a friend work with me, so we had fun while we worked and learned some technical skills along the way. I attended college at a university and continued to get my master’s degree with intentions of going into the construction business to follow my father’s footsteps.
But, like many of us in this industry, somehow, I ended up in the finance industry. I was asked to join a group that was starting a bank. This was an opportunity I could not turn down, and I jumped on it. Fifteen years later, I am a 42-year-old CEO of a $1.5 billion institution with 260 employees.
Every day I turn on the news and see reports on discrimination, disparate treatment, and much more against minorities, females, and those classified due to their selection of sexuality. For so long, I could not believe there were so many cases where powerful wealthy men took advantage of the less fortunate that belong to these categories. First, there are some truly evil people in this world and they absolutely disgust me despite their political views or life choices. But nowadays, the news is now so politically driven depending on which cable channel you’re tuned into that its difficult to know the actual truth. Having said that, these news reports have seemed to give some of us REALLY bad reputations. Do you feel like if you’re a non-racist, non-sexist, middle aged white male that you are under attack? Often, I do.
In banking, you hire for job qualifications and attitude. Not race or gender. You want people that smile, say “Good Morning” when customers walk in the door, offer help to others, and do things to help people that may not be on the job description. At our Bank, we have a lot of these people of all genders and all races that have these qualities. In our culture, we recognize these individuals quarterly with awards (monetary and non-monetary), recognition on the Bank intranet and on social media, and once a year our big winners make it in the paper. We run ads promoting our community bankers in local newspapers and publications to show the community how special we believe these people truly are.
So why do I feel attacked? At every conference I attend for any specific purpose, diversity is discussed in some way. I, as well as my management team, strive to promote females as well as minorities. Not to check a box on our affirmative action plan, or to simply appease the Department of Labor or the EEOC, but because having diversity allows for different points of view. We value those opinions because they help us in so many ways. It increases our Bank’s exposure to different kinds of people. People we manage, people we would like to obtain as customers, and people we wish to employ. It opens our minds to different cultures that we may or may not be familiar with and in turn fosters creativity, innovation, and overall better decision making. Sounds easy right? I thought so until I began the search to seek out and promote high performing individuals that I thought should be challenged with more responsibility.
When I became CEO, I identified positions I felt our Bank needed. Positions of leadership where I believed I’d identified the most qualified people in our Bank to take the reigns and lead the charge with me into the future prosperity of this Bank. These individuals happened to be 3 females that I knew were the perfect fit for the positions. They had been in their respective areas anywhere from 5 – 15 years, and I had heard several times that they were excited about growth opportunity. Confidently, I approached my first star. She was a loan officer with an abnormally large portfolio, was extremely active in the community, and volunteered to help with most anything that was needed by the Bank. As we chatted, I began discussing a void I had discovered in the lending function. After the explanation, I asked, “So… what I would like to do is offer you this position as well as management training including a graduate school of banking opportunity. This will build on an already strong foundation and give you insight into not only lending, but other areas of the Bank!”. She wanted to think about the opportunity, which I understood, and would let me know that week. After consideration, she wanted the job, but did not want to attend any training or travel. I simply did not understand. So I asked, “If this position requires management training, you would decline the opportunity?”. The answer was “Yes. I feel like being in this job for as long as I have, that I know just about everything there is to know”. I was shocked. I still am, shocked. I respectfully explained why I hoped she would embrace this challenge and explained I would continue my search. She understood.
Over the next few weeks I approached another female with a job opportunity in a different area of the Bank. Again, I was met with resist to change. This time because the individual did not want to be held to sales expectations. “What is going on?!” I thought. Was it my approach? Were we too tough on our expectations? Do these people not like me? Maybe it’s someone in their departments? Believe it or not, the questions continue to swirl.
Finally, a few months later, I approached an African American female to take the reigns of a market and grow the customer base in the town she grew up in and currently resided. After the previous meetings, I made the delivery of the opportunity as attractive as possible. Even relaxing the standards that I believed she could achieve. Again I was met with a firm, no thanks. This time, she simply enjoyed what she was doing and wanted to remain in her current role.
Now every year I attend a meeting where groups of 20 bank CEOs, classified by bank asset size, sit around a round table and discuss issues, opportunities, specific strengths, the future of the industry, and much more. These bank CEOs are from all over the country. While talking to the group during a break, I brought up my recent experiences. Most of the people in this group are 55+ in age, and I ended up getting many life lessons in what to do and what to avoid in management. But the summary of all the discussions were that they experienced the same too some extent. Many had succeeded in promotion of women and minorities but were adamant in explaining it had nothing to do with their gender or race, only their qualifications and attitude.
Then a thought hit me. We have two brilliant women on our executive management team. Let’s have them start a mentor program and begin a “Women of Banking” group. We’ll send different groups to conferences, have get-togethers, and grow this intelligence in our Bank. The woman I approached did not feel confident to lead this endeavor. Her response was “I prefer not to be thought of as female, but rather as a hard worker that is part of this team”. While disappointed, I understood her response. But I still wanted to form a group and train for future leadership roles and show appreciation. So often, men build relationships playing golf, hunting, or fishing and this is an opportunity to create something fun and possibly even attract customers at the same time. I approached three different females at the Bank and pitched the idea.
“What if we invite a few female business owners, or even wives of business owners and fly you all to an event, featured speaker, museum, or anything you can think of that would be entertaining and begin a women’s group that will hopefully grow. We could hold quarterly breakfasts/lunches/dinners and update them on community activities or Bank initiatives.”
While they seemingly liked the idea, I asked for suggestions of places or events to begin the group. To this day, even after a follow-up I have not had one suggestion.
These are problems CEOs run into much more than people think. There is no doubt there are sexist, racist, and overall disrespectful leaders out there that give the majority of us a very bad reputation. But for those of us that want to diversify our leadership, the majority of us, well… we’re trying harder than you think.
This article was written as a guest blog post for the Girl Banker. The opinions of the author are his own. He has requested to remain anonymous.
GUEST BLOG POST | Previous GIrl Banker of the Week, Liz Lancaster McIntyre, Director of Social Media and PR at Renasant Bank, has been busy. She recently helped launch a women-focused initiative at Renasant that was essentially her brainchild. Her passion for this project deserves recognition and I’m proud to host her as a guest blogger on the Girl Banker!
My background isn’t in banking. Although I grew up with a father who has worked in the banking industry for more than 20 years, I never knew what he actually did for a living. Exactly a year ago, March 2018, I joined Renasant Bank as Social Media Manager. After attending ABA Bank Marketing School, I called my dad and said, “Guess what… I know what you do for a living! We can now talk ‘bank lingo’ together!”
When I told friends and family that I would be working for a bank, they were all pretty surprised because my experience had been in hospitality marketing. They were all curious if working for a bank would be as enjoyable for me as working for restaurants and hotels had been. I was curious about this as well, which is one of the reasons I took the job. I was eager to learn something new. And not to mention my now boss, John Oxford, Director of Marketing for Renasant, had an insane amount of energy while talking to him on the phone. I knew this wasn’t going to be your typical bank job experience.
Within the first six months of working for Renasant, I had several conversations with my marketing team and others in financial marketing about women and diversity in the banking industry. John called me into his office one day and said “I’ve been hearing you have these conversations. I hear you… and I think you’re the one who needs to take this, do something with it, and drive it home.” Since given the green light, we have been tirelessly working on creating a program that would not only influence the women in the bank, but also the women that we serve every day. That is how our new initiative, Rise with Renasant, was born.
Rise with Renasant is a women’s professional leadership program that consists of three initiatives – 1) internal professional development for women who work at Renasant, 2) promoting external professional development and opportunities for women entrepreneurs, and 3) outreach to young women to promote leadership and careers in banking and business. This program was developed with the idea that it would be powered by women for women.
The first initiative, internal professional development, is for women who work for Renasant Bank. More than 70% of Renasant associates are women. We, the banking industry, need to create opportunities to help develop professional growth, which will in turn help women grow professionally. Why not kick this off within our own organization? Thus our first initiative is internal.
With the help of HR, we are developing a women’s professional development series that will feature programs focused on professional growth, success, and peer networking. We are also planning to have a Rise with Renasant conference in the future that will give our women employees all over our footprint the chance to network and grow internal relationships.
The second initiative is developing and sharing external professional programs to benefit women entrepreneurs and women in business within the communities we serve. Tracey Morant Adams, Chief Community Development & Corporate Social Responsibility Officer for Renasant (who I like to call Wonder Woman), has developed a program series called ‘The Nest’ – a platform geared towards effective business development and financial technical assistance for women-owned business leaders. This program will aid in the professional and financial development of women entrepreneurs designed to educate and encourage women to intentionally plan and prepare their financial well being. Get it? “Nest egg?”
Other external programs we hope to get involved with are women leadership conferences and women in business seminars all over the Renasant footprint. We want Renasant to support women’s voices and give our associates opportunities to get out in their communities and find success.
Lastly, the part I am most passionate, is a plan for Renasant women to visit schools to speak with girls about their futures. We want girls to see that women can work in banking, business, and finance in so many different positions – marketing, human resources, analytics, technology, customer service, etc. Along with talking about their professional futures, we also want to encourage girls to transition from the popular culture idea of “mean girls” to the idea of “girls supporting girls” culture. Let’s get rid of cyber bullying and negative social media by encouraging and supporting one another online instead. When Renasant women visit the schools together and show support for one another, we can influence their ideas of supporting one another instead of being competitive and jealous. When one woman succeeds, we all succeed!
I am so thankful to be part of a company who vocally supports this initiative. Stepping into the banking industry, I had no idea what to expect. Instead of experiencing the bank stereotypes of being old-fashioned, stuffy, and boring, I have been blown away at Renasant’s passion to drive forward and grow. My boss, our marketing team, and the entire Renasant family have been supportive of this idea every step of the way.
The trend of ‘banking on women’ is just the beginning of something great happening within the banking culture. We still have so much work to do. What can you do to support your fellow girl bankers in your company? Let’s rise together!
Liz Lancaster McIntyre serves as the Director of Social Media and PR at Renasant Bank, a $12.8 billion community bank with over 190 banking, lending, wealth management and financial services offices in Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia and Florida.
When I started this blog last year, the last thing I expected to happen was the opportunity to travel around the country advocating for women in our industry. Nevertheless, here we are and WOW! I have some incredible opportunities to meet women in banking all over the country this year and I couldn’t be more excited. One of the most rewarding pieces of this platform has been meeting girl bankers in real life and hearing their stories. If you are planning to attend any of the below events, please be sure to come say hello!
Last year’s trip to the Financial Brand Forum in Las Vegas.