Irene Dorner, the CEO of HSBC USA, and BlackRock CFO Ann Marie Petach were named the Most Powerful Women in Banking and in Finance, respectively, when American Banker revealed its 10th annual rankings on Monday.

This list of financial services’ most powerful women is something to celebrate, yet it is also proof that our industry is far from achieving gender equality. In a video announcing the rankings, Karen Peetz, BNY Mellon’s Vice Chairman and #3 in The Most Powerful Women in Banking, echoed this sentiment when she said :

“I think you’re going to know when to stop with The 25 Most Powerful Women in Banking when we have parity of men and women in the CEO positions.”

Given that we are a long way from that parity, these lists are both valuable and inspiring. Heidi Miller, the former president of international at JPMorgan Chase, writes:

“A ranking like this one is so important because it regularly serves as a display of the tremendous accomplishments owned by women across the industry, and reminds boards and CEOs of all the female talent available to them.”

Paying it Forward

Being a role model for emerging executive women is something Irene Dorner only embraced over the last few years of her career once she realized just how few women were making it to the top. She tells American Banker:

“I had learnt how to play by the rules of the game, and I understood how to do it. What had happened is that I was reinforcing the status quo. I was actually making it difficult for other women to role model their behavior on me. Accidentally, I was against the cause rather than for the cause. So, I had an awakening and I thought, ‘I’ve got to do more for women’s development. It’s now my responsibility to pay it forward and bring women through the system behind me.'”

Strengthening the Pipeline

Both Dorner and Miller express disappointment that the lack of senior women working in financial services remains an unresolved problem. Miller writes:

“In the top tier of the organizational charts at the top-tier banks, we simply haven’t made the kind of progress in the last 10 years that I was expecting.”

Sallie Krawcheck, named #2 in this year’s American Banker’s Women to Watch Ranking, warns that women aren’t just behind where they should be, but they are currently losing ground. She tells American Banker:

“In the parts of the business that have been most significantly effected by the downturn, there has been a reversal [in women’s advancement]. What was a white, middle-age, male senior management team in composite, coming out of the downturn is whiter, more middle-aged, and more male.”

Given how important it is to achieve better balance in the upper echelon, for women and for the industry as a whole, I found it exciting that so many of these incredible women are vocal advocates for creating a corporate culture which will both attract and promote female talent.

As Irene Dorner says:

“Those of us in leadership positions can rewrite the rules of the corporate workplace-for women in banking, and for that matter for every person in every industry. And having made it to the top, we have no one to blame but ourselves if we don’t.”

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