Executive Letter: Empowering Our Women in Banking

By Rose Oswald Poels

The financial services industry is one that is full of leaders, innovators, and dedicated professionals. As the snow begins to melt and March offers a glimpse beyond winter, I’m particularly reminded as I think about Women’s History Month of the legacies left by the many women who have offered visions of change to the way that we operate today.

One such notable woman is Maggie L. Walker. During a time that severely limited the progress of Black individuals and preceded the women’s suffrage movement, Maggie Walker challenged economic discrimination based on race and gender by working with the Independent Order of St. Luke (IOSL) to provide insurance, finance, and commerce to underrepresented communities. She was quickly noticed for her leadership qualities and became the first woman to own a bank in 1903. Please consider learning more about her life and legacy by viewing her online museum here.

We are fortunate to continue witnessing many achievements in the banking industry notably increasing our representation of women in executive positions. The number of women on corporate boards has also doubled in the past two decades. We are encouraging the ability to lead and the power to change, not just for women, but for all underrepresented groups.

The leading members in this industry have helped push us further toward equality. Change is leading to progress, and this progress is gaining momentum. A key part of this success will be the active involvement of bankers looking to make a difference in the area of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), and for this I look to the 5 core areas WBA will focus on to provide value to and for the industry: governance, communications, education, associate members, and talent attraction.

Women’s History Month creates an opportunity to reflect, learn, and act beyond just the month of March. WBA is proud to highlight and expand on this initiative through our projects and programs, including a new series on women in banking being developed to empower our current and future women leaders in financial services. This Empowering Women in Banking Virtual Summit will be held virtually on May 11, 18, and 25. Click here to find more information and sign up for these 3 interactive sessions to empower and celebrate women bankers. I look forward to working with our DEI group in determining how we can best expand on this progress, and I am honored to be a part of an industry that understands the importance of growing inclusivity and representation in our communities.