Synchrony Financial is a prime example of a leading organization serious about diversity and developing its workforce. One of the nation’s premier consumer financial services companies, Synchrony is dedicated to pioneering the future of finance – engaging consumers as they spend and save. Synchrony is led by President and Chief Executive Officer Margaret Keane, and her passion for emerging technology and employee development has solidified her reputation as a leader in the field. The following highlights are excerpts from her interview with Forbes discussing her position.
Kathy Caprino: What have been the challenges you’ve faced as a woman moving up the ladder to assume the top leadership position of a top Fortune 500 company, and how have you overcome these challenges?
Margaret Keane: First let me say — I believe that having employees with diverse backgrounds and experiences is better for everyone. It makes Synchrony a stronger company; it recognizes individuals for their unique backgrounds and experiences; it better positions us to meet the needs of our partners, our customers, and our other stakeholders. Throughout my career, there have been many times I was the only woman in a room of leaders. One of my passions is to get more women into leadership positions – not only at Synchrony, but across the industry. That said, I think working women struggle to strike the right balance between work, life and family. For me, it has meant learning how to be comfortable and confident in a male-dominated industry.
Caprino: As one of the few female CEOs in financial services, do you feel an extra responsibility to be a role model? Do you feel like people are watching you a little more closely?
Keane: Early in my management career I learned three big lessons: be comfortable working with people who are smarter than you; respect those who have been working there longer than you; and understand the historical background of the company and the industry you’re joining. If people are watching me closely, they’ll notice I surround myself with individuals who are experts in their roles – I depend on them. I ask for their help all the time – you can’t be an expert at everything and be a strong leader. As companies look to broaden their benches and hire candidates who have non-traditional backgrounds, it’s important for leadership to follow through. You have to advocate for them and make sure their voices are heard.
Caprino: Diversity is something that all leaders are called on today to embrace and foster in their organizations, but so many are failing at actually delivering on this. How are you addressing nurturing diversity and the true acceptance and leveraging of difference of thought, values, behaviors and approaches that emerge from having employees who come from a diversity of cultures and experiences?
Keane: Diversity is at the heart of Synchrony Financial. We believe that diversity of thought, diversity of experiences and diversity of background is more important than ever to connect with our employees and with our customers. The leadership at Synchrony – not just me — believes that a diverse workforce leads to more innovation and ultimately a more successful business for all stakeholders.
Read more of the interview on Forbes.com.