The blog, “Women Wear Technology”, features interviews with a diverse range of women professionals. I wish to tell the stories of successful, inspiring, innovative women working in all different sectors such as, technology, banking, marketing and more.
Enjoy, Embrace, Empower!
This month I have the honor of interviewing a fantastic female leader in banking, Joy Penn (formerly Francis) – CEO of National Bank of the Virgin Islands Limited. She tells us a bit about her life, her career journey and her views about women in leadership positions in the banking sector.
We can see a large proportion of women in senior management positions in the Caribbean. Have you ever experienced any bias? Are there still stereotypes?
In terms of my career advancements, I have always believed in the power of education and exposing yourself to industry opportunities. I have never considered myself as having a ceiling because I am a female in the banking industry. However, I still do experience some negative bias. For example, I remember an experience at one regional conference I attended in recent years. I went to the doorway to take my seat and they asked me if I was the secretary to the CEO. I replied: ”No, I am actually the CEO and I am on the round table for this meeting.” So, there will always be some negative bias, but you have to be confident in yourself and, in your ability. Don’t let anyone’s perception of you determine how well you represent yourself and excel in the industry.
Do you feel that women support women or that sometimes they try to tear each other down?
I will be very honest; I have had my share of positive and negative experiences, but I can say that I really make an extra effort to inspire women in the banking industry. Most recently, I have sent 3 women from my institution to a women’s conference for future female leaders because I saw a certain level of potential in them. I believe that as women, we have to realize that we are not each other’s competition. We must be willing to give others opportunities the way that they were given to us. “I do believe that behind a very strong and successful woman is a tribe of strong women that are supporting her.” It is therefore very important to me that women support each other at the workplace, especially considering the multidimensional challenges of balancing self-care, work and family life.
“I do believe that behind a very strong and successful woman is a tribe of strong women that are supporting her.”
How did you become CEO of the bank?
I obtained my undergraduate degree and my MBA at UCF (University of Central Florida) in Orlando, Florida, both specializing in Finance. When I went back home to the Virgin Islands in 2001, I started as a Lecturer at the H. Stoutt Community College, where I taught Accounting, Finance and Investment courses for about 4 years. It was one of those situtations where after you talk about “how to do” something for a while, you feel the need to actually experience it firsthand. I had the opportunity to go into the banking industry directly and I embraced it wholeheartedly. I realized that it was what I loved to do and I continued on that path. After a 7-year tenure, I left my previous place of employment as the Vice President of the Commercial Lending Unit. In 2013, I assumed the position of Chief Executive Officer at National Bank of the Virgin Islands Limited. As the Bank is still undergoing its transition into a full-service commercial institution with a steady increase of product and service offerings, it has been, quite a challenge so far. However, I have a great team and it is a challenge that I embrace and do not regret. I thank God for blessing me with these opportunities and I will exercise faith as I continue to fulfill my purpose towards the advancement of the Bank and my beloved Virgin Islands.
What does an empowered woman mean to you?
“Women empowerment” is so much more than a statement. We should not take our life placements or opportunities for granted and cherish the women that have positively impacted our lives, whether it is our mother, grandmother, aunt, teachers, or any other female figurehead. Know your worth and make the concept of “women empowerment” a reality by encouraging and uplifting the women with whom you interact on a daily basis.