Despite the traditional dominance of male executives in the financial industry, Union County Savings Bank (UCSB) has reported that women currently comprise three-fourths of the bank’s management team, and a third of its board of directors. Both groups also include a diverse mixture of ethnicities to better represent the unique needs of the four-branch Union County community bank, which is headquartered in Elizabeth.
Most recently, UCSB appointed Kelly Watson to the board of directors. Watson currently serves as a vice president and senior partner with IBM Consulting, a position she has held since 2021.
Joe Yewaisis, UCSB’s chairman and CEO, comments on the organic nature of the bank’s shift in gender dynamics. ”Having those different voices — many of them silenced during a more patriarchal period in banking — contributes to a healthy, more inclusive business environment,” he said. “It is a very diverse group, and each woman brings a different energy.”
Chris McFadden, executive vice president and chief financial officer for UCSB, noted, “Women often have different perspectives because we’ve encountered different challenges than many of our male counterparts.” She recalled the glass ceilings and chauvinistic behavior she’s encountered over the years. “I’ve been told throughout my career that women had a specific place, and management wasn’t it,” she said. “It’s empowering to now sit around a table with many other highly qualified women.”
“While hiring so many women for leadership positions was not necessarily by design, assembling a diverse board, management team and staff was very much intentional,” said Bill Jones, executive director of the Housing Authority of the City of Elizabeth and UCSB Board member since 2012.
“It’s important for people to recognize how truly diverse your business is,” Jones said. “If they see that more than half of your board members are minorities, and most of your managers are women, they’ll know this is a place where diversity is not only supported but reflected and celebrated.”
The bank’s commitment to diversity also includes a multi-lingual website, launched in January 2022, and an emphasis on hiring staff members from the surrounding area.
“It’s more comfortable for customers to come into a branch and be able to speak with someone in their native language,” McFadden said. “Employing people from the surrounding neighborhoods helps us better understand the challenges and goals of local residents. We can design more appropriate products and solutions if we can clearly understand the people we are serving.”
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