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Gender equality Act. 11 Mar 2021

Bringing your authentic self to work: Celebrating Women’s History Month

mujeres-dia-internacional-podcast-bbva

Five employees share their stories, opinions on gender diversity, and tell us about the women who inspire them.

More than 58% of BBVA USA’s workforce are women, each with a unique story to share. To bring their authentic selves to work, women often push through biases, misperceptions, and gendered expectations to create a voice for themselves in the workplace. For nearly three years, BBVA USA’s Women in Leadership Business Resource Group (BRG) has helped prepare women for career advancement and provided additional opportunity for professional development, and BBVA was recently recognized for the fourth consecutive year as a top company committed to gender equality by Bloomberg Gender Equality. In celebration of Women’s History Month, we’ve asked five female team members to share their stories and tell us about the women who inspire them.  

Michelle Stotz Gels, Discipline Leader for U.S. Behavioral Economics

Who is a woman you admire and why?

I read Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer for Facebook, when it was first published. As a busy professional and mom of three who was trying to balance everything, it really resonated with me. Sheryl highlights the known biases behind the different ways women and men are perceived in the workplace, how they make career decisions, and critically encourages women to stop holding back and “lean into” their careers.

How can colleagues (men and women) support the advancement of women? 

We must all acknowledge and combat the biases that hinder women’s advancement. Women more often feel the need to be (or become) an expert in order to speak up or apply for a new job, versus men who are more likely to speak up immediately without reservation. This should impact the way we gather opinions in meetings, write job descriptions, and think about the assignment of special projects.

For example, when reading a job description, women feel the need to have 100 percent of the skills to apply, whereas men only feel the need to have 60 percent of them. Knowing this, the BBVA Group conducted a Behavioral Economics pilot to increase female applicants in underrepresented roles. The reasons for the gap and tactics to address were many, but importantly, reframing job descriptions for required/optional skills, removing stereotypical male terms, and requiring that 50 percent of the candidates interviewed were women resulted in 30 percent more female applicants and between 30-40 percent of the roles filled by women.

Day to day, this means it’s important for all of us to check our own biases. Remember that confidence doesn’t equal competence, and encourage women to share their perspectives and experience. Diversified teams make better decisions, get better results, and strengthen BBVA.

Miranda King, Senior Project Manager, Retail Transformation

Tell us about a woman who helped shape who you are today.

For me, that person is someone I’ve had the pleasure of nurturing for the last 21 years—my daughter, Gabrielle King. As a parent, we naturally want to protect our children while helping them navigate through life—a life that has proven to throw many curveballs. I am learning and growing through watching her handle not only generationally inherited racial and gender bias, but also unfair stigmatization as a member of Gen Z. No matter what obstacle she encounters, she does not give up. Her energy, drive, and perseverance inspire me.

What challenges have you faced in your career? How have you overcome them? 

In the past, I’ve applied for positions and received the dreaded “We selected another candidate” email, the implication being that I didn’t meet the qualifications, have the right work history, etc. Each time, I’ve used this as the push to re-invest in myself by building my skillset or acquiring additional certifications through the professional development opportunities BBVA offers.

Adriana Alaix Climent, Director of BBVA USA Business Strategy

Who is a woman you admire and why?

Carla Harris, Managing Director at Morgan Stanley. Some years ago, I read her book Strategize to Win, and I liked how she describes the importance of your job being visible at your organization for a successful career. Harris introduces the concept of “performance currency” and “relationship currency” and how important it is to focus on both. Of course, doing an excellent job is important (performance currency), but it is not enough. You need to make sure you earn relationship currency, too, by establishing connections and finding allies at your company.

With the current working-from-home situation, this is more challenging. That's why you need to make an extra effort to stay connected to people. Here are some ideas on how to do it: schedule calls before presenting a project to look for support from your colleagues, ask for feedback and incorporate it, and look for opportunities to brainstorm with your team/manager.

How can colleagues (men and women) support the advancement of women? 

Sponsorship and mentorship are key for career development. I invite all senior women and men to sponsor and/or mentor a woman and help prepare them for their next leadership role.

Joan Chang, Product Owner

Tell us about a woman who helped shape who you are today.

For me, that person is Head of U.S. Solutions Development for Talent & Culture Desire' Crumb. Since I joined her team as a Channel Program Development Specialist over six years ago, she's challenged, motivated, and encouraged me to rise to my potential. Now, I’m a Product Owner because of the opportunities she introduced, which allowed me to learn about various channels including Online and Mobile Banking, Online Account Origination, and Telephone Banking.

What challenges have you faced in your career? How have you overcome them?

My first job after college was working as a car salesperson. Because I was the only female salesperson, a foreigner, and the youngest employee at the car lot, I was spoken down to, and many of my colleagues assumed that I didn’t know English, even though I was the only employee with a college degree from an accredited U.S. university. I refused to give up and met these obstacles head on. Because of my hard work, determination, and outgoing personality, I quickly became one of the top salespeople at the car lot and proved them wrong.

Mieke Hemstreet, Assistant General Counsel, Talent & Culture

Tell us about a woman who helped shape who you are today.

My mother has been, by far, the most influential woman—and person—in my life. She was one of only a few women in her medical school class and eventually became a successful pediatrician. She also lived with multiple sclerosis for over 40 years and managed to raise two children along the way. My mother was an amazing woman who showed me that there is no substitute for hard work, determination, and kindness. I try to follow her example every day, and hope that I can have the same positive impact on those around me.

How can colleagues (men and women) support the advancement of women?  

Be an advocate for women though your actions. This can be something as simple as publicly recognizing a female colleague's work. In my experience, women are less likely to call attention to their success. By calling attention to your colleague’s work, you might just empower her to highlight her own achievements and ideas in the future.

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