My father would have beamed with pride a few days ago, when his youngest daughter and my FabOverFifty sister, Heidi, received a Lifetime Achievement Award from American Banker magazine at its 9th Annual dinner celebrating “The 25 Most Powerful Women in Banking.”
Daddy had no sons but he always told his three girls “make something of yourselves.” He dreamed I’d become a physician; he was beside himself when Princeton accepted Heidi into its second co-ed class, and he fully expected that Shelley would graduate from NYU, even though she got married in the middle of her junior year.
I went into communications, Shelley became a dietician, and Heidi entered the world of banking. And while women didn’t stick out like sore thumbs in my and Shelley’s fields in the 1970s, they were scarce as hen’s teeth in the financial services industry. Even today, the financial arena doesn’t exactly welcome women with open arms. So Heidi’s rise through the ranks of male-dominated institutions, including Citigroup and J.P. Morgan Chase, is that much sweeter.
Currently President of JPMC International, Heidi has mentored women, including me, throughout her career. “Thank you for keeping me in the game so long,” she told a Waldorf Astoria ballroom full of bankers, the majority of them women. “Continuing our leadership and mentorship is critical, especially during the next few years, as our industry works its way out of a crisis. We’ve all got to be role models, all the time, to those above us and below us.”
Calling herself “smart enough,” to make it in a man’s universe, Heidi talked about the many transitions in a woman’s life, pointing to the transition she’s about to make when she “retires” from JPMC in 2012. “I’ve never been known as the retiring type,” she said, “so I’m anxious to see where the next phase of my life will take me.”
FOF Karen Peetz, CEO, Financial Markets & Treasury Services Group, BNY Mellon, and this year’s top woman in banking, advised “never get defensive, whatever you do; hold yourself responsible for your own success; take risks; get sales experience; be where the money is, set goals and follow through on them.” She thanked her mother for teaching her “there is no (glass) ceiling and the sky’s the limit.”
And keynote speaker, Huff Post’s own Arianna Huffington, thanked Henry Kissinger. “When I met Henry, I came to terms with my accent,” she mused. Proudly announcing that she’s 61 (she looks pretty darn great for any age), Arianna explained that she’s used every setback in her life to help her on her path to success. Including her divorce.