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Only one female CEO in 48 in 2007 study

Women’s numbers still lacking as banking executives

Women still have some distance to go in being represented equally in the top management of banking.

The 2005 labor statistics showed women made up 67.3 percent of the workers in the banking and related activities field of work and 74.1 percent in the savings institutions, including credit unions field. But, studies show in 2004 in the 50 largest commercial banks, women held only 12.1 percent of the executive positions in these banks. In the 100 largest U.S. national banks as of December 2005, women comprised 17.9 percent of executive management and women comprised 14.7 percent of executive management in the 100 largest U.S. state banks.

“I can only speak of the banking field of the financial services industry, and I do not think Mississippi is an exception to these statistics,” said Alice Harbison, CEO of the Bank of Benoit. “However, results of a 2007 study targeting the 50 largest community banks based on asset size, indicated women hold more than one-fourth of senior management positions at these banks. Of 442 senior-level positions within the 48 banks that responded to this survey, women held 121 of those jobs, or 27 percent of the total, as follows:

• One female CEO

• One female CFO

• Five women presidents or division presidents

• Twenty-five women executive vice presidents

• Eighty-nine women senior vice presidents

• Nineteen percent of the community banks surveyed had no female executives.

“Also of note, 183 women hold the title of vice president or assistant vice president indicating that even more women are poised to move up the corporate ladder in the near future,” said Harbison, who is on the board of directors for the Mississippi Banking Association and the board of directors for her bank. “So, I do not believe the financial services industry in its entirety is dominated by males. However, males do dominate the executive positions in this industry.”

These numbers result from a series of studies, Women at the Top, conducted by the FWI (Financial Women International) Foundation. The 2004 and 2005 studies were conducted in conjunction with the School of Business at William Carey University in Hattiesburg. The 2007 study was sponsored by FWI and conducted by the Financial Institutions Summer 2008 class of Weber State University in Ogden, Utah.

Harbison is in her 29th year as a member of FWI, and has served several terms as president of her local group and two terms as the Mississippi District president. She has also served as a trustee of the FWI Foundation and a member of the board of directors as bylaws chair for three terms on the international level.

Harbison said the employment growth and the opportunities in this industry continue to change with the impacts of technology, deregulation, mergers, etc. Bank tellers, office and administrative support, which require only a high school diploma, will continue to be in demand because of the numerous positions and high turnover rate. Other opportunities in this industry require a bachelor’s degree and an advanced degree is often desirable.

“Women need to do a better job of promoting themselves and positioning themselves for executive positions, having a clear career path and a broad range of experience,” she said. “They should build and demonstrate leadership. Leading is not just managing.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at 4becky@cox.net.

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