#WomenInFinance Are Driven Leaders - An Interview with Yvonne Garcia
When it comes to achieving an equal representation of men and women in the financial services industry, it’s all too clear that we have a long way to go. According to a Catalyst Inc. report, only 20 of the S&P 500 have women as their CEOs. Harvard Business School research on private-equity, real-estate and venture-capital firms shows the percentage of female senior investment professionals is “stuck in the single digits.”
For a variety of reasons — some personal and some systematic — women in finance are often boxed out of top leadership roles. That’s why the women who do rise in the ranks tend to be strong, determined leaders that have carefully cultivated their career path through the years. Yvonne Garcia, State Street’s global head of the Client Solutions Group and Program Management Office (PMO), is one such woman.
As part of our #WomenInFinance series, we wanted to highlight Yvonne for her exceptional commitment, dedication, and power as a leader —both at work and in her community.
You spent over a decade in marketing roles at Bank of America and Liberty Mutual. How did your years in marketing prepare you to lead State Street’s global Client Solutions team?
My marketing experience has been one of the biggest differentiators throughout my career. The ability to know your audience and effectively communicate your thoughts and message is critical in any function. In my role today, we spend a lot of time understanding our clients and their short and long-term goals. We take this information to design a future state operating model for our clients. The ability to design a strategy and operationalize that vision, leveraging different products and services, is key to our success.
While you were at Bank of America, your team created and implemented five pilot wealth management centers in Beijing and across the country, which has resulted in over 100 centers throughout China. What were some of the lessons you learned developing a business overseas?
I always classify my experience in China as one of my biggest personal sacrifices and one of my greatest professional accomplishments. I had to leave my two young children behind and missed many important milestones such as first birthdays, steps and words. However, I took on a risky assignment in another part of the world because I believed in the mission of what we were doing and because I knew it would set me up for future success throughout my career. It allowed me to provide for my children and teach them to take on lofty goals but, more importantly, to follow through on their commitments.
While I was in China I acquired my Six Sigma Black Belt and had the opportunity to work with a tremendous team of leaders from all walks of life. It taught me the value of respect and curiosity as to how things are done in other parts of the world. At the end of the day, we all wanted to the same thing — to meet our goals, deliver for our organization and create something great together.
As a Latina, you belong to two groups that traditionally haven’t been well-represented in the financial services industry. How do you feel the industry’s efforts to be more inclusive and diverse have evolved over the past decade?
Although we’ve made significant progress, we’re certainly not there yet. In my experience working with many global organizations through ALPFA, I’ve found systemic barriers in organizational structures, often subtle and unspoken – lack of diverse role models, as well as mentorship and sponsorship, from both men and women.
Having said that, it’s critical that we continue to make our organization home for a diverse talent pool as it allows us to remain competitive in the marketplace. At State Street one of the tenets of our Inclusion and Diversity strategy is “Accountability” and under this there are a number of activities we undertake to ensure that as leaders we are serving as role models and holding our business lines accountable for progress on our inclusion and diversity measures. It will be critical for us to tackle invisible barriers that can hold individuals back, regardless of merits or talents, as well as deny our organization and our clients the benefits of a diverse workforce.
You are now Chairwoman of the largest Latino Professional Organization in the country, ALPFA. How did that come about?
I was introduced to ALPFA more than 15 years ago when I was completing my MBA at Boston University. I was excited to meet a group of leaders that came from a similar background and had similar goals in life. I was offered a role in the local chapter and started volunteering instantly. In fact, my first “job” at ALPFA was to put name tags together for their events, and I did it with great pride! I was truly excited to be part of an organization that focused on nurturing and developing diverse talent.
I’ve learned a lot throughout my ALPFA “career” and also have witnessed firsthand the impact the organization has on the lives of so many Latinx students. I work with a great board of directors to help drive the future of our organization and am humbled to know that I play a small role in shaping the future leaders of our country.
What career advice would you give to your younger self, and young women just starting their careers?
I would encourage her to slow down. Take each experience in and learn from what it presents to you. Life will wait for you. The best part of reaching the finish line is appreciating the journey you took to get there. Don’t miss out on being present and deepening relationships or becoming an expert in a certain space because you were too busy trying to get to the next “big” thing in your life. At the end of the day, the experiences you learned along the way will mean a lot more than how fast you got to the finish line.
What inspired you to co-found Milagros para Niño’s (MPN) at Boston Children’s Hospital?
Nine years ago, I was approached by a gentleman from Mexico whose son had a very rare illness and was being treated at Children’s Hospital. He spent over a year by his bedside and luckily had the means to afford medical care for his son. However, he started sharing stories of the countless families who were not as fortunate and asked if I would be willing to help form the Council of Latino Leaders at Boston Children’s Hospital who would work toward improving the health and well-being of children in New England and around the world. Fast-forward nine years later, we’ve raised more than $8.6 million for community health programs, groundbreaking research and life-saving patient care across the hospital.
You ran your 9th marathon back in April here in Boston. Why do you run?
I run because I have the pleasure of raising money for organizations throughout the Commonwealth that are doing great things for our community. It feels great to give back and know that I had a small role in helping them carry out their mission.
I also run because I like the challenge. After mile 15 it becomes all mental for me. I must admit, I never thought of giving up completely, but I certainly had to push myself hard to finish. Running has also taught me to enjoy the journey, meet new people and witness the different drivers within each of us to take on a marathon.
Most importantly, I do it to teach my children to think big and push themselves. My son was at the finish line the year of the Boston Marathon bombing and I was caught between both bombs. Although the experience was horrific, I took it as an opportunity to teach my son how to be a leader. I made sure each year after that he stood at the very same spot because I wanted to teach him that as leaders we need to show up from a position of strength in times of crisis. I wanted him to know that only he will control his destiny. Every year, Max stands at the finish line proudly with his sign “Go Mom, You Got This.”
1. Women CEOs of the S&P 500. (2018, June 01). Retrieved from http://www.catalyst.org/knowledge/women-ceos-sp-500
2. Lietz, N. G. (2014, August 01). In the Hot Finance Jobs, Women Are Still Shut Out. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2012/07/in-the-hot-finance-jobs-women-are-still-shut-out
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