Interview: President of BNY Mellon Karen Peetz on Women’s Leadership

By Maha Masud

The BNY Mellon president talks with AS/COA Online about how to increase the number of women in business leadership roles.

BNY Mellon President Karen PeetzPresident of BNY Mellon Karen Peetz wants to see more women on corporate boards and holding executive positions in business and finance. “We don’t have as many women in senior positions that people can look up to and aspire to,” she says. Recognized in 2012 by American Banker as the third most powerful woman in banking, Peetz spoke with AS/COA Online about increasing women’s board representation and the challenges facing women in top roles in business and finance.

In 2012, the European Commission proposed legislation that requires women fill 40 percent of board positions by 2020. But Peetz is against using quotas to achieve board diversity, which she thinks “diminishes those women or people of color, multicultural candidates, who have earned it.” It’s more important, she says, to make sure women are qualified with experience that would make them strong contenders to become board members. To that end, Peetz co-founded the BNY Women’s Initiative Network (WIN) to provide a professional development resource to the company’s female employees. Since it kicked off in 2009, WIN has grown from 12 women to more than 50 chapters worldwide, and has thousands of members.

Peetz notes four factors identified in a McKinsey study that keep women from advancing beyond middle management: lack of network, lack of role models, institutional prejudice, and individual prejudice. Because of societal prejudices, Peetz says that women “have to probably be more direct about what their goals are.” To overcome these obstacles, Peetz adds that companies should create networks and role models, eliminate workplace prejudice, and help women set goals.

Watch BNY Mellon President Karen Peetz's video interview.