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How women in banking serve their communities and customers as role models

Thursday, March 16, 2023
How women in banking serve their communities and customers as role models

Strong companies are made up of strong people. Some of the strongest among them are women who possess an extraordinary amount of grit, an incredible amount of perseverance and an unending supply of devotion and dedication.  


When it comes to banking, these are qualities that are needed to form relationships, keep them going and help people accomplish their personal and professional goals. Grit involves courage and resolve - true strength of character. Perseverance is about persistence despite difficulty, which has been aplenty the past few years with a pandemic, inflation and threats of a looming recession that make banking incredibly difficult for everyone - especially individuals and businesses in our community that are economically vulnerable. Finally, dedication and devotion are what community banking is all about.   


Leading the way  

Women are leading the way in these important areas for banks and are a valued part of the teams they serve. IBC Bank's women-led executive team totals nearly 200 years of combined experience. Imelda Navarro's tenure of 46 years accounts for almost half of that time and speaks to the qualities of grit, perseverance and dedication as it relates to banking, finance and her personal life as well.   


Navarro is IBC Bank's president of Retail Banking and moved her way up from her first job as a file clerk at age 16 to be the first woman president of Retail Banking for IBC Bank. In 2005, Hispanic Business Magazine recognized her as one of the 100 most influential Hispanic women in the country.  


Navarro is part of an executive team of eight - five of whom are women. These women have been a part of a long legacy of leading the way as professionals climbing the ladder but also as community leaders who raised families and mentored young people along the way.   


Executive vice president of operations Dalia Martinez began her career with IBC Bank in 1990 and holds the title of IBC Bank's first official trainer. Additionally, Judith Wawroski, executive vice president and chief accounting officer who has been with IBC Bank for 31 years and started out part time, Rosie Ramirez, executive vice president and director of human resources who's served IBC Bank for 34 years and began in HR with just one payroll clerk, and Eliza Gonzalez, executive vice president of corporate divisions and has been loyal to IBC Bank for 43 years and started out as a secretary in accounting. Eliza also began as a high school student learning the ropes while continuing her higher education. All of these women are living the bank's "We Do More" philosophy.   


They are at the forefront of the business, but also serve a growing population in Texas where IBC Bank is headquartered. While men still make up most of the industry's employees across the board, more women are stepping into roles at financial institutions, from tellers all the way up to the C-Suite. Banks see women as valued team members who bring experience and perspective. National research shows that 46% of employees in the financial sector are women with 15% occupying executive roles.  


Research suggests that women help increase productivity and make teams stronger. French business school HEC Paris noted that private equity firms who have at least one woman on a team outperformed all-male teams by an IRR (Internal Rate of Return) average of 12% and an eye-opening 52% per dollar invested.  


Be a part of something great  

Attracting female leaders to the industry will help strengthen the financial status for millions of people and create diversity in banking. A diverse leadership will lead to helping more people find banking solutions and lead to a decrease in the number of minority households that are considered unbanked or underbanked.  


It starts at the ground level with education. Girls now are growing up and becoming interested in fields traditionally dominated by boys. Engineering is one area that girls and women are gravitating toward. Likewise, banking is another part of the STEM equation (M is for math!) where girls and women are choosing to follow a path be a part of something greater by helping their customers with personal and business finance; by being mentors to others in their field; by growing personally and professionally with participation in leadership programs and becoming trusted members of their community and bank.  


IBC Bank has fostered much of their leadership team through Leadership Texas, an organization for women that provides side-by-side mentorship and "how to be a leader" sessions, accounting, credit and retail programs where tellers and other entry-level staff can reach milestones for the next step in their career path, college reimbursement programs, and a commitment to diversity to create a stronger environment for everyone. Women represent not only IBC Bank's executive leadership team but are representing all levels of the bank's workforce who help women clients improve their own financial status and goals.  


This is how community banks grow - by educating children, offering leadership programs for entry-level bankers and creating a framework in which diversity and opportunity work in tandem. Women leaders are part of something great in banking.