Historically, banking has been a predominantly male-dominated industry, but the tides have changed with more women in leadership roles in banking than ever before. Research from Deloitte‡ found a 7% increase in women in leadership roles in the financial services industry over the last 20 years.
Three women in senior positions in the Wichita region (Kim Gattis, senior vice president, senior financial planner; Jackie Gearhart, senior vice president, treasury management; and Crystal Mattox, senior vice president, commercial lending), have come together to reflect on how they’ve achieved success, how the industry has changed since first entering the workforce and their advice for women considering entering the banking industry.
What was your journey into the banking industry like?
Jackie Gearhart (JG): I started my career in banking as a part-time teller in college. While I hadn’t intended to stay in banking, my love for the industry grew as I learned more about different career paths across the lines of business. A career in banking gives you the opportunity to work with clients in different stages of their lives and offer them both personal and business guidance. For me, this has been the most fulfilling part of my journey. I’ve had the privilege to work with many companies and play a role in their evolution over the years and witness their successes firsthand.
Kim Gattis (KG): Like Jackie, I started in the industry as a bank teller, however, anything other than teller was not typically a job women looked at 30 years ago, so I was fortunate to be one of a small number of women who were able to advance quickly from that role. I was determined to not let that stop me from moving up in this once male-dominated industry. I’m glad I persevered because banking has been the perfect career for me. I enjoy working with clients, but I also love the analytical aspect of the industry. When I started in Wichita, there were strong women leaders in the market, but at that time it was rare to see women in executive positions. These women were excellent mentors to me and served as a reminder that women have a place in the industry. Now, there are more women than ever in banking—which I love to see.
Crystal Mattox (CM): While studying business finance at Kansas State University, I returned home for the summer and a banker I knew offered me an internship role at a local bank. There, I shadowed tellers, credit analysts and associates in other roles and learned more about the opportunities available in the industry. Following my internship, I was hired as a credit analyst and worked my way up to commercial banker. As a commercial banker, I love prospecting and meeting new people. My favorite part of my role is helping clients achieve their goals; it’s a very rewarding job.
What career accomplishments are you most proud of?
JG: I am proud of how quickly I’ve learned and advanced in the industry. From the beginning of my career, I’ve been surrounded by senior associates that have encouraged me to try different things and I’ve always been willing to learn and dive in. As a result, I’ve accomplished more than I thought possible by serving our clients and my career has grown in a way that I never anticipated.
CM: I’m most proud of my move from Fort Scott, Kansas to Wichita, Kansas. Relocating to a bigger market was a scary thought but working with Jackie and Kim has made the transition smooth. Jackie, who’s been in the market for years, has helped me network and connect with people in the local community. Additionally, my two largest clients were in Wichita and they encouraged me to take the leap. It’s been great to have the support of those around me and the chance to work in a larger market with even more opportunities.
What were the challenges and tough choices you had to make along the way?
JG: It’s been challenging to find the balance between my family and work as often a lot of family responsibility falls to women. I’ve found that many working women struggle to balance both and prioritize them effectively.
KG: I typically use softer language and express more feelings than my male colleagues and sometimes it is a disadvantage in the professional world. I made the choice to use stronger, more assertive language to better get my point across as an expert and display confidence. I want the language I use to reflect my expertise, so clients and prospects trust my point of view and recommendations.
What would you say to girls and women interested in a career in banking?
JG: Go for it! Opportunities continue to grow for women in banking. Now women are working in executive leadership roles and making an even larger impact on the industry. The sky is the limit.
KG: Women should understand that the financial services area is incredibly diverse in opportunities – there are so many different roles available. Banking is a great industry that recognizes talent and hard work.
CM: Though it was once a male-dominated industry, there are more women working in banking on all levels. Banking is an amazing career with many opportunities for growth.
In 2021, 52% of UMB new hires were women. We look forward to the continued increase of women in all levels of leadership in the industry and at UMB for years to come.
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