As head of human resources, Georgann Berger McKenna leads a team committed to building a workplace culture founded on integrity and respect for all people. For Penn Community Bank, it’s not about checking the box of a corporate-mandated diversity and inclusion training. It’s about creating a truly inclusive business that understands and values the differences in background, experience and thought that a diverse workforce brings.
“Being inclusive is about making people feel welcome, and ‘I can just be myself,’ is the feedback we get a lot from people who have come here from other organizations,” Georgann said. “The more that that happens, the more diverse our workplace will become over time. We want to lay the groundwork with our culture and through our activities and initiatives, and as the word gets out, our diversity will increase naturally as a result.”
While women make up slightly more than half of the entry level workforce in the banking and consumer finance industry, typically the number of women in senior leadership roles declines the higher up the ladder one goes. Fewer than 1 in 3 senior vice presidents in banking are female, and only about 1 in 4 C-suite executives are women, according to the 2020 Women in the Workplace study conducted by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey.
With a female CEO and a high percentage of women in senior leadership roles – including Georgann – Penn Community Bank is proud to break that mold.
“We’re not the stereotypical bank, and that sets us apart from other banks,” Georgann said. “In addition to gender, we also have a nice mix of diversity of thought from different age groups. One third of our team is baby boomers, one third is Gen X, and one third is millennials. That gives us an advantage when we are developing products and services for the different ways people like to bank today.”
The financial services industry can be slow to change, so it has taken some time to make the business case to industry leaders that diversity & inclusion efforts and mentoring programs are worth the investment of time and resources, Georgann said.
“Yes, revenue numbers are important, but we must look beyond that,” Georgann said. “Diversity & inclusion and education and mentoring may not appear to help the bottom line in the short run, but when it helps us attract and retain high caliber talent, the investment is justified, particularly when that high caliber team helps us develop better products and deliver better service to our customers. That is how it pays off in the long run. Once you have some success with that, people understand the value.”
Q&A with Georgann
Have you had a mentor and how did that support your professional development?
My boss at my first job was my mentor. Even after we went our separate ways, I stayed connected with him. I’d run my ideas by him and sought his input and feedback. He was very honest with me. Sometimes he would say, “Oh no, you shouldn’t do that,” or “You might want to approach it a different way.” He would challenge me, in addition to supporting me, and I found that to be very helpful.
If there’s one story that you could tell about your career, what would it be?
I would tell people not to be afraid to take on special projects or different assignments, and don’t worry about what you left behind. Just keep moving forward, and wherever that experience takes you, have the courage to follow it. Some people are worried that if they work on a project outside their current role, what will happen with their actual job. I never worried about that. I always figured that something else would come about, or if that didn’t work out, I had enough confidence in my own skills and abilities that I could go find something else. That mindset allowed me to get involved in different projects and initiatives and that increased my skillset and my knowledge of banking as an industry. I just trusted that something good would come out of it, and fortunately, it did.
What books have had an impact on your career or personal growth?
I’ve read a lot throughout my career. I spent a lot of time in 2020 on this journey of diversity and inclusion, trying to educate myself. When somebody talked about “systemic racism,” I didn’t even know what that meant. I had to go find out. So I read a lot and joined PBS and watched some documentaries and it helped me to understand how we got here. My favorite out of the books I read was What If? Short Stories to Spark Inclusion & Diversity Dialogue, by Steve L. Robbins. More important to me than just understanding how we got here is answering the question, where do we go from here? We can’t solve all the problems of the world, but we can identify what we want to accomplish at Penn Community Bank and what will make our bank a better place for people to come to work.