At the MBA’s Woman in Banking Conference on June 8, Gilda Nogueira, MBA chairman and president & CEO of East Cambridge Savings Bank, made inspiring remarks to open the conference. The text of the speech follows.

Women in Banking 2017 Opening Remarks by MBA Chairman Gilda Nogueira

Good morning everyone!  Welcome to the fifth annual Women in Banking Conference, organized for you by the Massachusetts Bankers Association.  For those of you who I have not yet had the pleasure to meet, I am Gilda Nogueira, chairman of the MBA, and President & CEO of East Cambridge Savings Bank.

As the chairman of the Association, and as a woman, I am particularly delighted to be your official host for this conference, which seems to grow in both attendance and content each year.  As I look at all of you, of course, there are many women here, but it’s also nice to see men as well.  
The issues we will discuss today will have a common theme, not just Women in Banking, but what we all can do -- leaders . . . women and men alike  -- to foster gender neutrality and opportunity in our industry. 

In the Massachusetts Bankers Association, we have approximately 155 financial institutions. Today, 18 women are presidents and/or CEOs. We have always been a leader in this area. Even though on a percentage basis our numbers are growing, we can do better here and elsewhere.

One important note, we are in the midst of a year when the American Bankers Association also has a women chair, our own Dorothy Savarese, chairman, president & CEO of Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank.  Dorothy could not be here today but she, as a former chairman of the MBA, has been instrumental in the founding of this conference. And for that we thank her.

In addition, ICBA has just announced the appointment of its first female president & CEO, effective Jan. 1st.

Recently, a study by the Peterson Institute for International Economics, and professional services firm EY, revealed a significant correlation between women in leadership and company profitability.  The report found that companies with at least 30 percent female leaders had net profit margins up to 6 percentage points higher than companies with no women in the top ranks. Yet today, women in the C-Suite are still relatively rare.

An analysis by Korn Ferry of the top 1,000 U.S. companies by revenue, found that the percentage of women in most C-Suite positions is dramatically lower than their male counterparts.  The study found that across the most prominent C-Suite titles (CEO, CFO, CIO, CMO, CHRO) and several industries, including finance as well as consumer, energy, life sciences, industrial, and tech, on average less than one quarter (24 percent) of the top leaders are women.  (By the way, if you’re doing the math, our 18 women CEOs are 12 percent of 155, but we have not surveyed for other C-suite women in Massachusetts banking.  I suspect we might be in line with the national cross-industry number.) 

The key perhaps is not entry level hiring – that’s about even between young men and women. What’s more important is demonstrating a pathway to success for young women and emerging leaders. Role modeling and mentoring are vastly important, right up there with eliminating gender bias.

A recent Forbes article stated, “For a young female professional, it's important to understand that gender bias is real and that the battle is uphill to become a senior leader. It's possible to pursue the highest leadership positions, but it requires sacrifice and flexibility to adapt to the environment around you. Since there's a long way for companies to go to achieve gender equality, Millennials and other women can influence change by firmly correcting bias and discriminatory behaviors on the spot.”

In my own experience, I was fortunate to have good mentors to show me the way. Of course, hard work was equally important, as well as creative ways to achieve work-life balance. We all know many women drop off the career ladder because having it all just seems too daunting. It should be the goal of every HR Department and senior management to provide a platform for success that does not have to include a one-choice-or-the-other mandate. 

And, by the way, I’m not only talking about senior-level positions, we have people of all ranks in our banks, and all need the support, compassion and understanding of management to succeed.

So, today we will look at some of these and other issues in depth. We have assembled a great group of presenters, and we will have room for you to express your opinions and make suggestions as well. 

The topics will also include:  proper business etiquette; achieving higher levels of job satisfaction; employee happiness as a pathway to profitability; how to recognize and promote leadership qualities and champion female leaders; the ability to accurately analyze potential, while tempering that with compassion; what is emotional intelligence and why is it important?; what are the important economic, regulatory, demographic, and technology trends?; and much more.  

I hope you enjoy today’s Women in Banking Conference.