Creating a sense of community is one of the many ways that Schwab builds a more inclusive, collaborative work environment. As a company that’s committed to empowering the success of our diverse employee pool, we offer an array of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) designed to support the professional development and personal wellness of individuals within our organization.
Karen B., a Director in Wealth Management Consulting and national co-chair of the Women’s Interactive Network at Schwab (WINS), sat down to talk about the representation of women in the world of finance, the inclusive culture she’s encountered at Schwab, and how Employee Resource Groups like WINS give Schwabbies the platform to network, grow, and celebrate one another.
How long have you been working at Schwab and what is your current role?
I’ve been at Schwab for 27 years and work with the Wealth Management and Relationships Consulting team. We assist the rollout of our modern wealth management approach through coaching trusted advisors, upskilling, financial planning, and supporting our sales force – we help sustain all of those efforts. Put simply, our objective is to empower employees to become more effective in serving our clients.
What has kept you at Schwab?
I have the same answer as many other people who work here – it’s the culture and the people. You spend a lot of time at work, so it’s important to be surrounded by peers who have like values, create psychological safety for you, and who challenge you – to me, that’s all really important and is why I’ve stayed here for so long.
How have you seen Diversity & Inclusion at Schwab evolve over your 27-year tenure for women in the financial space? Is there an increase in female participation?
When we talk about the evolution of diversity and inclusion and women’s involvement in finance, one word comes to mind - empowerment. Through Schwab’s inclusive initiatives, we’ve created a space where women’s voices are heard and valued, and where women feel represented in the world of finance.
There’s been rapid growth and expansion in all of our ERG communities over the years. It’s exciting to think about how my work in WINS has contributed to that growth, and how this group gives women and allies a platform for networking, career development, and even aids in attracting new talent. Our WINS network is up to over 5000 members now – it's a movement.
How did you get involved with WINS? What are you responsible for as a National Co-Chair?
I’ve been involved since I came to Schwab, but about 2 ½ years ago, I began co-chairing. We're responsible for setting the vision and galvanizing the support, and for obtaining the resources needed to bring that vision to life. Both myself and Annie L. put the bulk of our efforts behind developing talent and bringing programs into the organization that women value, grow from, and can act on. It’s so important to give the ERG members that supplemental support and coaching in areas that benefit us all.
Annie and I are also involved in the Care Program, which is a Branch Network program designed to help women in support roles learn the relational skills needed to be successful Financial Consultants. Our coaching strategy enables these women to tap into their strengths and use them in these client-facing roles, which is unique to the industry. This level of executive coaching is usually reserved for top executives, and we're bringing it right to the field – right to women. The program allows us to develop the talent we have, retain this talent, and even attract new talent.
How important has the contribution of men, non-binary, and gender non-conforming Schwabbies been to the Care program and WINS?
It's critical – it's essential. Everything we do at Schwab is intended to be democratizing, and in order for us to be bold in our efforts to advance diversity and inclusion within our organization, we need everyone to work toward the common purpose of representation.
Do you have any advice for women who would like to create community and a sense of belonging in the workplace?
I have the benefit of 35-plus years in this industry, and that experience has taught me that you have nothing to lose and everything to gain when you act in the best interest of the organization and a common cause, such as creating a community. I’d also tell them that you need to be a little fearless and know that good work is always rewarded. Here at Schwab, we have such a strong sense of community, and that really allows people to feel safe when making those kinds of efforts. People want you to be successful here, and there’s such a passion around D&I and ERG communities – so I say, go do it!
What advice would you give to women who are interested in going into finance? What has worked for you over the past 27 years?
First off, I think that job competency is table stakes. You need to have a basic understanding of your craft, and how your craft benefits people. From there, I’d say that the next skill you need is an ability to relate and connect with people. As a leader at Schwab, I've had the great privilege of heading a few teams, and you have to want their success more than your own.
When you're working with people, it's more important to listen rather than find an answer. Listen with an unabashed, insatiable curiosity and you’ll be able to relate with people in a way that sparks connection. Don't worry about the technical stuff – you’ll acquire that over time. Pay attention to the soft skills.
How can all employees foster a sense of belonging and inclusion for women and allies at work?
I treat them like family. You’re not just a co-worker, you're a person who is raising a family, or caring for a parent, or who's rushing to pick up your child, or who's watching your daughter put her cap and gown on and walk down the aisle. You’re all invested in each other’s lives, and there's no shortcuts with that. If you want inclusion and belonging, you have to be all in.