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April 2, 2018 Focus: Banking / Finance

A sea change is happening in opportunities for women in Maine's banking industry

Photo / Tim Greenway Pat Weigel, president and CEO of Norway Savings Bank, is one of nine women on the bank's 11-person executive team.
Photo / courtesy camden national bank At Camden National Bank, five of the eight executive team members are women.
Photo / courtesy KeyCorp Beth Mooney, chairman and CEO of KeyCorp

From post-college bank teller to bank president and CEO, Pat Weigel has broken through the glass ceiling.

Her career spans more than three decades, starting with a teller job after graduating in 1982 with a psychology degree from Denison University in Ohio.

“At the time I thought it would be a temporary position,” she says. “Once I got entrenched in the industry, I decided I liked it.” Part of that had to do with starting in retail, a common entry point for women in an industry traditionally dominated by men. “Banking is really a people business.”

In 2001 she became Norway Savings Bank's first female president and CEO, and today is one of nine women on an 11-person executive leadership team. While she's still the only woman at the helm among the largest Maine-based banks, she's encouraged by progress at her own institution, where women now make up a third of the commercial and over half of the finance teams.

“We're in the midst of a sea of change,” she says. “Maybe the change has been a little bit slower to come to the country's larger banks, but in community banks such as Norway, we are seeing a lot of change.”

Still few women at the top

Despite cracks in the glass ceiling, the financial services industry is still very much a man's world.

A 2016 study by the New York-based consulting firm Oliver Wyman shows that the higher up the corporate ladder, the fewer women there are. It found that at finance firms in the S&P 500 stock index, women represented only 1.4% of CEOs. That compares to 19.8% female representation on boards, 27.8% at senior level and 44.7% at first- and mid-level.

Why so few women at the top? The study concludes that while women enter the profession with the same ambition as men and retain that determination through mid-career, a significant gap opens between men and women in their willingness to make sacrifices in their private lives. Female managers, senior managers and executives are, in fact, 20% to 30% more likely to leave their job than peers in other industries. “It is at this point in their career that women vote with their feet,” the study concludes.

Blazing trails

On the national stage, KeyCorp's Beth Mooney stands out as the first female CEO and chairman of a top U.S. bank, and takes her trailblazer role seriously.

“I do indeed feel that I carry this role as a special obligation,” she told Mainebiz in a telephone interview. “I have felt it since the day I got tapped for this job. Being in the minority as a female, I was very grateful when I got the CEO job and felt I was blazing a very important trail, so this notion of doing it well and being successful for other women is incredibly important.”

Mooney has served as CEO and chaired the board since May 2011, more than three decades after getting her first job — as a secretary at a bank in Houston.

“I graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa,” she recalls. “When I interviewed for a job, people asked me how fast I could type. You have to start somewhere, and I embraced that and leveraged that pretty quickly. Within a year, I moved from Houston to Dallas, and was very committed to getting into a bank training program.”

Today, she leads an organization with an equity value of $22 billion, $5 billion in revenue and 18,000 employees. Gender diversity is a priority, as reflected in 29% female board representation and 31% female representation among executives and senior-level officials, and extends to pay equity.

In Maine, where KeyBank employs 450 at 49 branches, Portland-based senior vice president and regional trust director Dianne Nason says she appreciates the culture of collaboration and communication Mooney has created.

“She empowers employees by listening to their ideas and forcing change where others would not have the determination to do so.” Nason, who has been with the bank for more than 36 years, is herself is a trailblazer of sorts in trust administration.

“When I first got into trust administration, it was highly dominated by men, and they sort of questioned me if that was the role I really wanted,” she explains. “I definitely did, so there was certainly no holdback for that. Now if I look at the stats of trust administration, it's very close to 50/50.”

Kim Donnelly, senior vice president and director of business banking at Gorham Savings Bank, also sees more women entering that specialty. “There's less of that glass ceiling here,” she says. “I truly feel that the sky's the limit.”

Colleague Rebecca Winslow, senior vice president and director of retail delivery, feels the same despite challenges along the way. “I literally remember when my whole paycheck went to day care,” she says, “but I had a long-term vision and knew I wanted to grow.”

Credit unions tell another story

In Maine, women lead 27 of the state's 56 credit unions. They include Julie Marquis of Five County Credit Union in Bath, who worked her way up from teller to president and CEO, a role she's held since June 2016. Both her mother and sister-in-law also worked at credit unions, which she notes have always had strong female participation. “Many credit unions were started by women at kitchen tables,” she says.

At Gardiner Federal Credit Union, president and CEO Vicki Larrabbee leads a team of 14 female employees and has this advice for young women starting their careers today: “Work hard, have confidence in yourself, and run with it.”

Liz Hayes, president and CEO of Infinity Federal Credit Union in Westbrook and a 2017 Mainebiz Woman to Watch, says she believes while the credit union industry is changing for the better in terms of opportunities for women, “we have not arrived.”

Recently when credit unions in a handful of states appointed new CEOs, all of them were men. “There certainly is a glass ceiling for women,” she says.

Hayes also laments the lack of women leading larger institutions, noting that the percentage of women in the C-suite “drops off dramatically” for institutions of $250 million or more in assets. She's one of the few to break that mold. She was appointed president and CEO at Infinity in September 2014 after a call from a recruiter she knew, and underscores the importance of strategic networking for all women who want to advance in their careers.

She says Infinity makes a concerted effort to have diversity of all types. “On my senior team I have seven individuals who work with me, and four are women who are very talented and experienced. I would not promote them based on their gender alone. I hire or promote people based on theirs qualifications and their abilities. If they happen to be a woman, that is a plus.” Speaking more generally, she says: “I don't suggest we need a formal policy, but you do need a leader who recognizes and respects and desires the diversity of voices and opinions.”

Top performers 'who happen to be women'

At Camden National Bank, the largest Maine-based bank, five out of eight executive team members are female. Looking at how that came to be, President and CEO Gregory Dufour says the focus is on people's talents, their ability to lead and willingness to learn and succeed. “These are top-performing people who happen to be women,” he says.

They include Deborah Jordan, promoted to COO and CFO in late 2014, and Patricia Rose, who joined Camden last year as executive vice president of retail and mortgage banking. Jordan says her mentors have all been male, while Rose says she's had both male and female mentors.

Both have high praise for Camden's corporate culture, as does Karen Stanley, who chaired the board for seven years until her retirement in 2017 when she turned 72, the bank's mandatory retirement age for directors. “Of all the corporations and nonprofits that I've worked with, it was probably one of the most professional, and I have such a high level of respect for all the senior team,” she says. “I would put any one of the senior women at Camden up against any male at any single bank.”

Lifelong learning curve

At Norway Savings Bank, Weigel says the bank plans to fill five new positions this year as a result of investments related to technology and regulation. “We're looking for the best talent and we don't want to settle,” she emphasizes.

The 58-year-old recently began mentoring 25-year-old Zach Golojuch, a mortgage processor, from whom she hopes to learn how it feels to assimilate into the organization and what the bank can do better for new employees. “It's a really great opportunity for me as well,” she says.

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