Attending the awards ceremony last October for American Banker’s Most Powerful Women in Banking was an unforgettable experience. Not only was this the first in-person event I’d attended in months; more importantly, it was a celebration of how far women have come in banking.
A passion for making a difference
So you can imagine how thrilled I was to talk with Sandy Pierce, who has received this honor from American Banker for three years running. Sandy is Senior Vice President, Huntington Bank. We discussed her inspirational career as well as some of Huntington’s initiatives to support women in banking and communities.
I’ve always been an advocate of advancing women in the workforce and, more broadly, of creating inclusive and diverse workplaces. That’s one reason I’m passionate about working with middle market banks. These banks are grounded in and centered by their strong focus on helping people and communities. I see this “truly human” spirit every day, and it’s a powerful differentiator that their customers value.
Being part of the change
Most of us have heard stories about women shattering the glass ceiling. Sandy has lived it. Driven and ambitious, she aspired to a career in banking, and joined a bank after graduating from college. It didn’t take too long before she noticed something about the leadership at the bank. “I looked at the top of the house, and they were all men, they were all white, and they were all commercial lenders.”
She recognized that, as a woman, she was part of a minority in this industry. And she understood that to work toward the leadership position that she wanted—and for which she knew she had the talent—she was going to have to be very intentional in her actions.
“I wanted to be part of the change. I didn’t want gender to define me. I simply wanted to achieve as much as the men who were just as good as me.” To cut through the glass ceiling, Sandy got her finance degree and entered a commercial loan training program. “That’s how I ensured that my career would go as far as my talent, not my gender, would take me.”
The power of being intentional
Flash forward to today and Sandy isn’t just an advocate of her own career; she advocates for programs that make people’s lives better, help businesses thrive and strengthen the communities that Huntington serves. Sandy takes the same approach she did all those years ago. She’s intentional about it.
“This industry is metrics driven, so we are always very committed and intentional. Social and racial equity and gender are a big part of this. We are making a difference in our organization for women because it is part of our performance record. We publish it. We talk about it. We make our executive leaders accountable for it. And we measure success with metrics.”
Change inside and outside the bank
Huntington is putting this approach to work both inside and outside the bank. Sandy is especially proud of the women’s resource group. Participants spend time on professional development and career pathing. For Sandy, the career-pathing focus is invaluable. “Women need to own their careers. It’s important to be responsible and accountable and set a plan to achieve your goals.”
Sandy was also excited to tell me about Huntington’s newest program for women employees, called Transformations. It’s designed to accelerate the integration of the highest-potential women leaders within the succession pipeline and start to close the gap in female representation among executive leaders.
Huntington’s commitment to women extends beyond the bank’s four walls. As part of its 2021 Strategic Community Plan, the bank will invest $40 billion to help drive meaningful change by improving economic vitality and financial security, as well as by creating a sustainable future with $16 billion focused on women, minorities and under-resourced communities. “We want to lift these people and places up.”
Creating a sense of belonging
Learning about Sandy’s story and these programs was inspiring. The common theme is the power of belonging. Accenture’s recent Better to Belong research reveals how important this is—that the more inclusive an environment is, the more organizations can tap into the full potential of their people.
It wasn’t easy for Sandy to feel a sense of belonging in the early days of her career in banking. But over the years, she’s worked hard so that the women following in her footsteps have the opportunities and support they need to become, in their own right, powerful women in banking.
Make changes at your bank
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