Becoming a Resource
For Other Women
I am the oldest of four children, with three younger brothers. I
was the captain of our track and cross country teams in college,
and was often one of only a few females traveling to track meets
with the male team. We were a diverse group, not only running
different events but from varied backgrounds and ethnicities as
well. I developed an appreciation for how we worked together,
leveraging our different skills and perspectives, to be successful
and win for our team. The skills I learned as
the only female sibling and as a female captain of two Division I sports teams largely
impacted my career.
From sitting at a family
dinner table with my
brothers and their friends, to sitting in board
rooms with mostly male executives years later,
I now recognize how those experiences
helped me feel comfortable in many settings.
My foray into community development banking was not a
straight line—I began my career as a CPA and moved into banking by way of a credit training program. I went through the
training program quickly, which enabled me to train others and
ultimately run the program, giving me management experience
very early in my career. From there I said “yes” to opportunities
in risk management and technology before being recruited into
community development banking. I was fascinated with the
complexity of the real estate industry, and the opportunity to
help people in need. My appetite to learn and the guidance of
influential and involved mentors helped my career progression
and personal growth.
Now, as a national executive for Bank of America Merrill
Lynch Community Development Banking, I lead a team of bankers who provide debt and equity to build affordable housing
across the US for individuals, families, veterans, seniors and the
previously homeless, as well as financing for charter schools.
Throughout my career I’ve realized that there are so many
opportunities to help.
The representation of women in any industry, through female
leadership and team members, is vital to a successful team in any
industry. Diversity of thought and experience is a key driver to
creating innovative and timely financial solutions for our clients.
Having a multi-generational, ethnically- and gender-diverse team
provides additional viewpoints that help us challenge each other
to look for solutions from various angles. Ultimately this ensures
that, as a team, we are more creative, innovative, and progressive
than we would have been had we looked at the opportunity from
only one perspective.
When I began my career, there were not as many opportunities
for women in the industry, both to network with other profession-
als, but more specifically to connect with other women. I learned
through trial and error how to juggle managing a family with two
young children, and my responsibilities at work. Nowadays, any
opportunity I have to share advice—whether it’s a tip on baking
cupcakes for a school fundraiser or making a career move—I
always try to be a resource for other women.
A few years ago, I became involved with Bank of America’s
Power of 10 and more recently LEAD (Leader, Education,
Advocacy and Development) for Women, to help expand opportunities for women. Now, I am an executive sponsor for LEAD for
Women in Rhode Island, where we mentor female employees
and promote their professional development through education, advocacy and networking. These programs create networks
of support, diverse thinking, and friendship that are so important to being successful employees, colleagues, family members,
I’ve learned that sometimes the easiest way to make an impactful
difference is the simplest: supporting people. In this industry,
regardless of where we are in our career or personal life, we can be
resources for each other. When we support people for who they
are, and recognize the different components of their work and
personal lives, they will be more fulfilled in every aspect of their
life. Providing support in work as well as life can reward itself by
creating more productive, happier and engaged employees.
The most important career and life advice I learned was to seek
counsel and different perspectives from those I trusted, male or
female. Generally speaking, people are willing to help in a number of ways, through shared knowledge or a helping hand. Be
brave—don’t be afraid to ask questions about a different way to
approach a situation, or solve a problem. You never know what
advice you might pick up along the way. ◆
I’ve learned that sometimes
the easiest way to make
an impactful difference
is the simplest:
Maria Barry is national executive for Bank of America Merrill Lynch
National Community Development Banking. She may be contacted
at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed here are
the author’s own.
By Maria Barry