By Natalie Guevara
As Bank of America’s Seattle market president, Kerri Schroeder works to ensure the bank is improving the financial lives of its customers.
“That means making sure that clients have a good experience with us, no matter how we serve them, and making sure that we deliver the entire firm to address their needs,” she said.
During the pandemic, she is leading the teams responsible for supporting clients through government assistance programs, including securing 11,200 Paycheck Protection Program loans totaling $993 million in the Puget Sound region alone. Nearly all of those loans went to businesses with fewer than 100 employees, she said.
Tell us about the moment that helped define your career. When I was a young credit officer at Bank of America, the head of my line of business asked me to lunch. I knew that I had worked hard, and that I had a good reputation. Over lunch, we had a pretty standard, getting-to-know-you kind of conversation. But then he asked me what I saw as my next move in my career. At the time, I didn’t have a roadmap in mind, but I did have a long term goal: I wanted to have his job, and I told him so. Fortunately, he saw potential in me, and he became a great advocate and mentor of mine after that conversation. In fact, a year and a half later, he tapped me to take on my first leadership role in the company.
What has been your greatest career challenge? In many ways, location. Bank of America is a global company, and mobility can be a big factor how quickly you can advance and how many opportunities are available to you. But for most of my career I have not been mobile — I chose to be in Seattle (a long way from headquarters), and family circumstance has kept me here. That has meant that I’ve had to be more patient. It has also meant that I needed to be really honest about what I want and what my limitations are.
What do you want to see change for women in business in the next 10 years? It’s really simple. I want us to continue the trajectory that we’ve been on for the last several years: increasing representation in senior leadership positions, on boards and in the C-suite. Until women fill 50% of those spots, we have more work to do. But changing the representation of women in leadership roles and making it sustainable means continuing to change our society’s view of and treatment of women as a whole.
An estimated 865,000 women left the workforce last month because of Covid-19 and the burdens of teaching and caring for children at home during the pandemic — a number four times higher than the number of men who left. A quarter of women report that they are considering leaving the workforce or are scaling back their career aspiration because of the pandemic. We recently had a Supreme Court nominee asked during her confirmation hearings, “Who does the laundry in your house?” This just underscores hard-wired biases about the nature of womanhood and motherhood in our society. Working moms are three times as likely to be handling the majority of home work as working dads. For years, I’ve been asked, “Who looks after your kids when you travel?” I would venture that there are very few male executives who have ever been asked that question.
Why is it important to have more women in business leadership? Women are 51% of the population and own 37% of businesses around the world. Companies with more diverse teams outperform those that are more homogenous. We can recruit more women into leadership positions by working for women — creating inclusive cultures, supportive workplace policies and benefits around things like parental leave, child care, elder care. We have to make sure that compensation structures are equitable.