The Best Banks for Women: Leadership

VITAMIN W has completed a study on the banking sector which is presented in three parts. Please also see "The Best Banks for Women: Consumers" and "The Best Banks for Women: Employees." This work is part of a larger research project analyzing how companies serve women as consumers, leaders and employees. The full methodology and results of the study will be available in the early summer of 2014. 


By Kimberley Killen

Banks are all about money. And women have a lot. Working women in the US generate $4.3 trillion of earned income. The eight million women-owned businesses generate $3 trillion. Many of those dollars pass in and out of banks.

Sure, the big retail banks issue credit cards and process automatic payments, but beyond that, are they serving the interests of women customers, employees, and women-owned businesses?

Do the consumers who deposit their paychecks and pad savings accounts know how their banks operate—and if they did, would they approve of what happens beyond the teller’s counter? 

Since you can’t change what you don’t measure, we decided to take a closer look at some of the major banks and some equality metrics. The following is by no means complete, but these charts on employees and leadership can help consumers understand how the bank that has their money is running their business and promoting equality.  

We evaluated the banks on how they promote leadership (below), how they serve their customers, and how they treat female employees.  


In recent years, the banking industry has certainly opened its doors to women. Bank of America, for instance, boasts a workforce that is more than 60 percent women, and it’s rare to find a C-suite or boardroom composed entirely of men. Though, no one on this list has more than 30% of women board members, and we haven’t reached parity.

Some financial institutions are even investing in supporting and retaining a new generation of women through leadership initiatives. JPMorgan Chase launched Winning Women, BofA’s network LEAD has 30,000 members, and Citigroup developed Women Leading Citi and Women’s Leadership Development. These programs demonstrate a commitment to mentoring women and helping them attain the highest positions within these respective institutions at a rate on par with their male counterparts. Citi even tracks their progress.

So how are female employees at retail banks currently faring? Some are doing well, and others not so well.

All the banks we researched had women on their board and executive team. While many women make it into the management ranks, the numbers of those who manage to climb higher is much smaller. The C-suite is almost unreachable—of these 13 banks, there's just one C-level woman. There isn’t one female CEO of a major bank on this list, until we expand it to include smaller banks like Key Corp, which does.

Looking at these numbers begs the question: why are the strides made by women into middle management positions not matched in executive offices? Could it be that inadequate paid maternity and paternity leave policies are continuing to force women to choose between home and the office? Does going on maternity leave result in missed opportunities for advancement? Does the glass ceiling only exist on the executive floors? Are efforts to empower female employees no more than another form of pink-washing?

For more information on the banking sector, be sure to visit, "The Best Banks for Women: Consumers," and "The Best Banks for Women: Employees." For a description of our methodology, visit our methodology page.

marks the top performers





We welcome your comments, updated information, or corrections to this article:

Research team:  Kimberley Killen, Padmini Parthasarathy, and Jessica Pasko.
Image: © Stephen Coburn, Fotolia