Pamela Joseph, Vice Chairman of Payment Services at U.S. Bancorp and #6 in American Banker‘s 2011 list of The 25 Most Powerful Women in Banking, is not only a leader in her industry and powerful advocate for women working in financial services, but also an inspiring philanthropist.
Believing that more could be done to encourage women’s advancement in banking, Joseph gathered twenty five of her peers together in 2010 in order to collectively figure out what to do. In a recent speech, she explained:
I felt it was important to get my senior women leaders together to help to formulate a group that would create an informal network, become comfortable with each other, to be able to reach out with questions; ask for advice, share business thoughts or ideas. I also wanted a group that could reach down into the organization and help our younger women coming up through the organization.
Women Leaders in Action
Working together, the women that Joseph assembled founded Women Leaders in Action (WLA), a group comprised of senior women in U.S Bancorp’s payment services organization that would meet several times a year in order to concentrate on leadership development, mentoring, and charitable work.
Joseph said the group “agreed one of the best ways to really bond was through a volunteer effort, so we chose to improve the lives of women in Africa with the focus on education.”
They decided to dedicate their efforts to providing access to education for impoverished children in Kenya. The WLA has so far raised $400,000 for the school fees, uniforms, basic supplies, and teacher education.
Members of the WLA have taken two trips to the slums of Nairobi as part of their philanthropic effort. For all involved, the work has been profoundly meaningful. By working together to help children living in dire conditions, the women have fostered deep connections with each other that could never develop in a business context.
In a profile of Joseph and the WLA’s work in Kenya, American Banker spoke to Cathi Stanton, senior vice president of product management for U.S. Bancorp subsidiary U.S. Bank. Stanton said:
“I’ve admired a lot of these women. I respect them, and I love getting to talk to them. It makes me really proud to work for the bank and to be led by Pam. She is a phenomenal leader. Being part of the WLA and the work in Africa is a reminder to think big. Through our actions, big things can happen.”
The Power of Giving Back
Joseph said, “We have made two trips to Africa. It has been life changing for all of us involved.”
While in Kenya, Joseph has been inspired by the women who selflessly work to help those living in poverty. From these women leaders, Joseph has gleaned valuable leadership lessons. “In the end,” she said, “it comes down to a few simple drivers…confidence, commitment and guts, a willingness to take risks and make things happen.”
Joseph’s leadership and the work of WLA should serve as a model for other women’s groups throughout the financial services sector. By thinking beyond the boardroom, the members of WLA have not only played an essential role in helping many children get education that they would not have access to otherwise, but they have grown as individuals, as a community, and as leaders in their industry.