By Sarah Christ
When it comes to banking, the common perception is that the industry is dominated by men — holding the highest leadership roles, earning more and dominating boards. However, according to a recent study by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the tide is shifting, with more women in leadership roles than ever before.
This is big news for an industry traditionally led by men and can be seen locally at Community Bank N.A., which recently announced Barb Maculloch as president of Pennsylvania Banking and appointed Sally Steele as the new chair of its board of directors.
Maculloch and Steele have experienced the evolution of women in their profession firsthand. Maculloch joined the industry in January 1980 as a teller for Wyoming National Bank while taking night and weekend classes at Misericordia University. Meanwhile, Steele joined the board of Grange National Bank in 1991 in addition to working as an attorney.
Throughout their careers, both experienced familiar challenges to varying degrees — lower salaries than male counterparts, struggles after maternity leave, a dearth of female mentors or simply having to work harder to prove their capabilities. When Maculloch joined the industry, the highest position she’d ever seen a woman occupy was commercial team leader.
“Men were at the top and most women were in positions such as tellers when I first started, but that’s not necessarily true anymore,” Maculloch said. “The tide has definitely started to shift.”
Both women attribute this shift to the percentage of women today receiving college degrees. Forty years ago, women fell vastly behind men, with only 12 percent in the United States finishing four years of college. Fast-forward to today, women are more likely to obtain a bachelor’s degree, with 32.7 percent completing their undergraduate studies, contrasted to 32.3 percent of men.
“There is a generational change happening and you’re starting to see women moving up the ranks,” Steele said. “It may take time as women need to first attain roles of responsibility and leadership; however, there is demand for talent regardless of gender.”
Maculloch also believes it is all about aligning yourself with the right people. “It’s truly all about culture and surrounding yourself with smart people. Community Bank N.A. looks for the talent in the person — gender doesn’t matter. I love working with a team that’s full of talented men and women.”
As leaders at Community Bank N.A., Maculloch and Steele now serve young talent as the female mentors they lacked earlier in their careers. Each feel it’s crucial to relay the idea that gender is an asset rather than a hindrance.
In fact, Steele looks at being a woman as an advantage. “I find that it sets you apart, gets you noticed and opens doors that then allow you to prove your capabilities and talents as a professional.”
While Steele and Maculloch have seen growth of women in their field, they both say there is still progress to be made. As a result, they both want to use their new positions not only to serve as role models, but to maintain Community Bank N.A.’s culture — one that is kind and sincere to customers and welcoming to all individuals. In addition, they want to work together with the entire Community Bank N.A. team to strategically grow the bank, increase market share and enhance shareholder value.
“I don’t want women to think there are any limits on what they can achieve, whether they want to be in the banking industry or another profession,” Steele said. “If you want something, stay focused and work really hard and you can achieve anything, regardless of your gender.”
Sarah Christ is public relations coordinator at Community Bank NA.
Community Bank System Inc. (CBSI) operates more than 190 customer facilities across Upstate New York and Northeast Pennsylvania through its banking subsidiary, Community Bank N.A. With assets of approximately $8.7 billion, the DeWitt, New York-headquartered company is among the country’s 150 largest financial institutions. In addition to a full range of retail and business banking services, the company offers comprehensive financial planning, insurance and wealth management services. Community Bank System Inc. is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and the company’s stock trades under the symbol CBU. Visit communitybankna.com or http://ir.communitybanksystem.com.