During Card Forum last month, I was honored to participate on a panel discussing leadership traits associated with sustaining a successful career as a woman in payments. The panel included long-tenured industry experts and women who I admire. Much like myself, all the ladies on the panel have benefited from encountering many extraordinary female colleagues during the course of our careers. These relationships and encounters have helped motivate, mentor, and influence our careers and frame our leadership skills in a historically male-dominated field.
The genuine consensus amongst all the honoree panelists is that it takes guts to be a female executive in the payments space! Aspiring female executives need to be vocal and unabashed about taking risks. Women in traditionally male-dominated industries, such as financial services, need to project their voice, be tenacious, and express their passions. This sentiment doesn’t just apply to the world of financial services and holds true across all industries.
One key lever to success is building a network and opening lines of communication across the industry. As your career starts to prosper and your network begins to expand, it’s crucial to promote communication with members of your network. It’s funny that, as women, we’re expected to be proficient at communicating, but sometimes our professional agendas and personal lives don’t leave much time to do so. Continuity is key! Fostering a presence across your network is more valuable than you think. Communication supports learning and staying current on relevant trends in the industry. Sharing knowledge and insights encourages valuable relationships and garners respect that transcends your personal networks. This approach builds your reputation for thought leadership and as a trusted resource enabling intellectually based strategic ideas.
It is also rewarding and equally important to give back to one’s network, and to the general community at large within the industry. As female leaders in this space, we have an opportunity to support up-and-coming colleagues through mentoring and sponsorship and, at the same time, drive improvements in the marketplace. Women in payments can do all of this collectively through a myriad of resources including education and innovation. By nurturing and fostering dialogue with each other and between our organizations, sharing expertise and driving change, we inspire the next generation of great female executives.
Skill-sets and networking activities aside, there’s still a much larger picture. The payments industry is changing, not just technologically or through innovation, but also in terms of the power dynamic. During the panel, we openly discussed the challenges females have faced getting a seat in boardrooms around the industry. While males still primarily hold leadership roles, there are a significant number of women entering the financial services and payments industry rising to higher ranks. We’re beginning to see evidence of the sea changes at the top of the house which will ultimately shift the balance of power.
We are seeing women take on roles within their organizations that have previously been dominated by their male colleagues. For instance, both Key Bank and Synchrony have female CEOs and there is a long list of women in C-Suite leadership positions including CFOs, CMOs, General Councils, Risk and HR executives, to name a few. That is progress demonstrating that the female glass ceiling can be shattered in public companies. I look forward to supporting this trend and seeing more accomplished women reach new heights across the financial services and payments space!