Women in Business
In March of 2017, in recognition of International Women’s Day, a sculpture by Kristen Visbal was installed at the heart of corporate America, in New York City’s financial district. The statue, “Fearless Girl”, depicts a defiant young girl, just over four feet tall, with hands on her hips, ready to take on the world. A plaque accompanying the statue reads, “Know the power of women in leadership, SHE makes all the difference.”
The phrase “a man’s world,” commonly used to refer to the world of business and the leaders of commerce, seems to have so little relevance today, particularly across the Cape’s landscape of small, innovative and successful commercial ventures. This area is such a unique and dynamic place that one might suggest the over-arching component to success is an abundantly strong work ethic—a characteristic women across the Cape have in spades.
Banking has always been a solid choice for women on Cape Cod.
A long list of compelling reasons could be compiled to explain the prevalence of successful women rising through the ranks of local financial institutions, with hard work and empathy topping the roster.
Theresa Richards, First Vice President, Cape Cod District Manager for Rockland Trust, credits her success, both within the organization as well as outside in the community, to having a strong foundation of understanding for the local businesses and residents who call Cape Cod home.
Richards, who grew up in Chatham when her parents moved here in 1970, says that she identifies with the individuals and businesses in this community because of her roots and the many years she has been in service to her neighbors. “When I say I have only interviewed for a job once, I am not making a joke,” Richards, who has worked for the bank for over 35 years, explains. “I have been fortunate to be able to grow as our organization has grown, and as a result, my relationship with our customers and the community as a whole has also grown.” Richards credits her fellow employees with mentoring and challenging her through the years for the success she has earned.
Richards says the banking industry is more than a financial conduit for its customers across the region, “We are the partner so many people turn to when they need support, guidance or assistance.” That partnership is evident in Richards’ generosity of time and commitment to a long list of local boards, non-profits and individuals she supports through the bank’s underwriting as well as her own expertise and mentoring.
Rockland Trust is celebrating its 20th anniversary on Cape Cod. The organization has been providing services on the Cape Cod since 2000 and Richards cites the importance of understanding the Cape’s past, and how it relates to its present and ultimately its future, as paramount to successfully serving her customers and the community as a whole. “I grew up here, I’ve known many of these people for most of my life,” she confirms. “I have seen my parents move here, put down roots, raise a family and retire. I followed a similar path. That understanding of the life cycles here on the Cape is invaluable when dealing with the individuals I encounter every day through my responsibilities at Rockland Trust. People may come to you one day with a banking questions and the next day with a completely non-banking related question. It is that concierge mentality that is needed to connect with a lot of people, from many different walks of life, and understanding what we share in common.”
“The bank’s tagline is ‘Where each relationship matters,’ and I really take that to heart. During this past year, which has been so challenging for so many, we provided opportunities for our ‘family,’ our customers, to do business with us however they feel most comfortable. Sometimes, that means in a person’s home. To me, that is good business, but more importantly it is being a good person.”
Richards also understands the importance of giving back, leading by example. Her commitments include blood, sweat and tears, as she has participated in the virtual Falmouth Road Race this year and made sure to have her seven mile route cross paths with some of her branches. Internally she has provided valuable mentoring to Rockland Trust employees that are working to elevate their own contributions. 2021 marks the second year that the Bill Matteson Leadership Award will be presented to a deserving employee. This year, Richards is proud to announce that Patrice Pimental, her branch manager of Mashpee, who undoubtedly had an inspiring example to follow, will be the recipient. “The components around the award are coaching and mentoring, care and respect, and integrity. My alignment with this individual was truly a two-way exchange, and it shows through strong and effective mentoring we can foster really strong and impactful leaders, and everyone benefits from that.”
Lisa Guyon, Executive Director for WE CAN, a Cape Cod organization whose own title is an acronym for Women’s Empowerment through Cape Area Networking, knows a bit about mentoring and serving her community. 2021 represents 20 years that this invaluable resource has been providing access to professional services and experts in the areas of legal, employment, business support, and financial empowerment for women in transition who might not otherwise be able to access those services. “We do it by recruiting volunteers in each of those areas and connect the dots between the volunteers and women who might need life skill development, expertise and information, and generally building their confidence around those issues that can help stabilize their lives, in order to start to build pathways to self-sufficiency,” Guyon explains.
WE CAN’s extensive network of volunteers is a Who’s Who list of business professionals across the Cape, many of whom are household names for some, and most of whom are women. Guyon says their valuable volunteers, mentors, and staff are at the core of how and why WE CAN has been supporting women for two decades. “When I think about the kind of intersection WE CAN provides, it is tapping into those incredible experts in our community, and then facilitating access between the women in need, and the experts who can help establish a path to a sustainable future.”
The past year has obviously presented challenges to everyone, so it would track that WE CAN would have seen significant need as well as unprecedented barriers to providing connections. In fact, Guyon shares that the shift in communication style most of society has adopted as a result of a pandemic has actually allowed WE CAN to expand their services geographically, as well to members of the community who may not have been able to access services due to transportation or schedule limitations. “We have been fortunate that our volunteers and professional mentors have been flexible in providing connections with women in need, and on the flipside, in many ways a phone call or a ZOOM call was less cumbersome or intimidating than a face-to-face meeting for our clients that need resources,” Guyon explains. When asked what the future holds, Guyon reveals that the unexpected benefit of virtual meetings will in all likelihood continue in a hybrid approach due to the more effective penetration of the community.
Guyon says, “I think about our programs along a continuum. Often someone might come into our programs because of an episode, for example they might need legal advice. In that case, they would come in, and then step back out after they have gotten what they need from our services. In those cases, we pair one-to-one with our expert volunteers. But then later on, someone might have a more in-depth need, which is where our workshops come into play. They are focused around those same areas such as key areas as legal support, or business support and employment. Then we have programs that are more duration based, like GROW-group programs, mentoring programs, and divorce support groups and these programs are intended to provide a more lasting impact on their lives.”
Celebrating a milestone such as two decades of providing services would ordinarily involve celebrations and galas but 2021, like 2020, anticipates virtual presentations for most of their annual events. Building on the foundation that 20 years has laid for the organization, Guyon expects to see the organization become even more innovative. “I see our anniversary as a critical and wonderful turning point for us into our future, where we take all these lessons we have been taught and ways we have had to adapt over the last year and go deeper into the needs of the community while we leverage technology in different ways for us to deliver our services,” she says with confidence.
“The 2021 summer programs are already filling up,” Reckford says as everyone prepares for an unknown set of criteria ahead.
Across the Cape, the arts are alive, they are vital and if 2020 has taught us anything, they are essential businesses here on Cape Cod.
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