Today, Patricia Husic is president and CEO at $304 million-assets Centric Bank, chairman of the Pennsylvania Bankers Association, and a member of ABA’s Community Bankers Council. But years ago, at an earlier bank, she was a hungry young manager who saw that IT challenged her institution badly. Believing she could improve things, she presented a business plan to management and took on the task. So well did things turn out that management named her CIO. It also marked the start of being known as a turnaround expert.
Husic doesn’t consider her abilities unique. Women bankers often take on tough tasks and succeed, she says. But they frequently fail to sell themselves, and rarely “make the ask,” as she puts it, when opportunities for advancement open. Husic says women frequently see making such requests as incompatible with being a team player. Many simply labor on, hoping their work will be recognized.
While some women have made it into banking’s C-suite, Husic says women continue to be underrepresented in management. Just look around the typical senior-level bankers conference, she says.
As Husic advanced in the state association’s leadership, she pushed for an event that would help promote issues concerning women in banking and also promote women’s participation in association events. She believes networking will help women advance.
In March, PBA held its first Women In Banking Conference, featuring a selection of women speakers holding senior positions in banking, business, law, and media. The keynote speaker was Gail Evans, author of Play Like A Man, Win Like A Woman.
Attendance blew through even Husic’s hopes, so much so that PBA had to change the event’s location to obtain more space. Even so, attendance had to be capped at 250. Husic says that one in four attendees had never attended a PBA meeting before, and that women working in positions of responsibility at the same banks were sometimes meeting each other face-to-face for the first time.
Several other state bankers associations sponsor women bankers conferences, among them Maryland, New York, and New Jersey. ABA held its Women’s Leadership Forum in March, in conjunction with its annual Government Relations Summit. PBA built elements of its event on ideas raised during regional breakfasts that it held for women bankers in 2013.
Husic hopes to raise awareness of women’s issues, pointing to such barometers as the heavy social media traffic coming out of the conference—468 tweets alone. At her own bank, when internal advancement opportunities arise, she makes sure female candidates are interviewed.
One new wrinkle the industry must address still has Husic thinking: post-crisis image issues. “In the early days of my career, it was an honor to be a banker,” she says. “I still feel that way, but the younger generation doesn’t always see that.” Ultimately, she says, banking must find a way to attract young candidates of both genders.