By GSBC President Michael Stevens
GSBC again held a “Hard Questions” course at its 71st Annual School Session in July. The premise of the course is that, as a leader, you will get the questions people don’t know how to—or don’t want to—answer. This special class provides an opportunity for students to expand their thinking by being exposed to a variety of views and experiences.
We gathered 160 second year students to discuss, debate and identify solutions to the current state of diversity in community banks. We also wanted them to share success stories and explore creative strategies.
The students noted the steady increase of women as directors and in senior staff positions, but there will need to be more women in lending and finance roles to achieve equality. There is a notable lack of interest in banking from women and people of color. We should find this concerning as it is not an issue to be remedied overnight.
- There needs to be greater outreach and mentorship to encourage students to consider a career in community banking, especially in underrepresented populations. Banks should expand internships and do more work in local high schools. It is important to have an influence on students before they start considering majors and careers.
- I once read a case study of a bank that hired high school students to work part-time. The bank’s goal was to pique students’ interest in banking. If it worked, the bank supported the student during college through employment during breaks and the summer. If it didn’t work, the bank often kept the student and the student’s family as customers.
- One group of GSBC students noted that diversity and inclusion need to be more than age, sex and race to include backgrounds and life experiences. These different perspectives foster new and creative ideas. This will be key to the continued evolution and innovation of community banks.
The GSBC Bolder Banking challenge is this: Discuss the initiatives you have taken to increase the diversity of your candidate pool, identify additional steps the bank can take and seek out engagement opportunities with local high schools. Commit to doing something new in 2023!