Empowering Women to Advance Personally and Professionally
Katherine Kadar attended Smith College, one of the oldest and largest women’s
colleges in the United States. This gave her a unique perspective when she
moved on to attend a coeducational graduate school. “Right away, I noticed a
stark contrast between the presence of men and women in my classes. The men
were so much louder and more outspoken, while a lot of my female classmates
were just not being as confident or as vocal as our male classmates,”
Later, in her first job as an audit associate, she noticed a similar dynamic
in meetings: Some women co-workers were undermining themselves by using
qualifying or apologetic language. “My experience at Smith was so inclusive
and empowering compared to what I observed after Smith,” says Katherine, “that
it struck my passion for helping women to find their voice and to learn to
communicate in a more effective and confident way.”
That’s what she and Anastasia Rodgers are doing now as co-chairs of the
Women’s Professional Network (WPN) at the Federal Reserve Bank of San
Francisco. For Katherine and Anastasia, steering the group has been a way to
spur meaningful conversations around women’s issues, while also finding
personal and professional growth.
Action and allies
The Women’s Professional Network is one of the oldest employee resource groups
(ERGs) at the Bank, and its largest. The group has grown from 139 to more than
400 since Katherine joined seven years ago, when she started at the San
Francisco Fed. Its mission is to empower, develop, and promote women.
“We’re really about making it possible for women in the Bank to find the
opportunities that fit them well,” says Anastasia, who is a program manager
for the Information Management Program. That comes through events such as
networking happy hours and leadership talks.
The group also puts a spotlight on issues women face in the workplace and in
society. In 2018 Anastasia invited Kelly Decker, a business communication
expert, to give a presentation on communicating with confidence and how to
communicate to influence. More than 150 people across the District attended
the event in person or remotely.
Decker gave attendees a
series of actionable tips, such as “own your space”—because women tend to cross their legs and arms in
an effort to look smaller. To combat this, women can move their weight forward
with their arms on the table, or when standing, use large gestures to add
authority. Another tip was to “speak with purpose and vocal conviction,” which
can be achieved by ending sentences at the same or lower tone than the
beginning (so they don’t sound like questions) and by pacing and using pauses
to create emphasis. “The message seemed to resonate with everyone who
attended,” says Anastasia.
While the WPN encourages women to stretch themselves and to grow, it also
stresses the importance men and other allies have in creating equity in the
“If the room is full of men, the men have a responsibility to pull a chair up
to the table for a woman,” says Katherine, who is a project analyst in IT and
supports operations and strategic priorities in a chief-of-staff capacity.
“Our allies can give people who are more soft spoken an opportunity to speak
as they’re working on developing these skills.”
Fixing the broken rung
As WPN co-chairs, Katherine and Anastasia have the opportunity to be leaders
Katherine, who also founded the Federal Reserve System women’s leadership
team, says she actively continues to build her skills in humility, empathy,
and active listening, among others. “Learning to lead without having authority
was something that I wanted to work on,” she says. “The WPN gave me that
opportunity. Our mission expands well beyond our district, and collaborating
with other like-minded leaders has been particularly rewarding.”
Anastasia, who has been at the Bank for four years, was recently promoted to
her management position. She says that this can be a difficult feat for women.
study conducted by LeanIn.org and McKinsey
shows that it’s not the “glass ceiling” that prevents women from advancing to
senior leadership positions, but rather a “broken rung” that makes it
difficult for women to take the first step to becoming a manager. According to
the study, for every 100 men promoted and hired to manager, only 72 women
receive management promotions.
“It’s really tough for someone to get—like I just did last year—from the
individual contributor role to the next level up, into a formal leadership
role,” Anastasia says. “But if women can get from point A to B, then there are
more opportunities that open up.”
Anastasia stepped over that broken rung at the San Francisco Fed, and the WPN
played a large role. She gained much of her leadership and people management
experience through the ERG. Overall, the group has been a major part of
Anastasia’s professional life.
“Situations you have to handle as a manager—personality conflicts,
misinterpretations, you name it—have happened in my time as WPN co-chair,” she
says. “Co-chairing has given me a lot of confidence as I’ve navigated some of
these ups and downs. I love that I’ve met more people from across the Bank and
get to work with people from all kinds of different business lines and at
different stages of their career. I feel like I’m learning all the time with
Growing the network and passing the torch
One of Katherine and Anastasia’s proudest accomplishments is helping to take
the WPN outside the San Francisco headquarters. There are now chapters in Salt
Lake City, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, and Phoenix.
Phoenix kicked off its chapter last year with a talk from long-time ally and
executive sponsor, SF Fed First Vice President and COO Mark Gould, who talked
about the value of ERGs and specifically the WPN. And Los Angeles has held a
series of Walk & Talks, where WPN members get to go for an informal walk and
chat with a Bank leader.
Katherine and Anastasia look forward to continuing to grow the ERG, and for
new women to take their co-chair positions next year.
“I’ve done my best job,” says Anastasia. “I’ve had successes, and I’ve had
some serious learning moments. I really want to make sure that other people
have equal opportunity to all of that. So, I can’t wait to pass the torch and
share these experiences with our next WPN leaders.”