Financial Women: Profiles in Diversity Series

Kim Pugh

In our allyship with the women of color in the financial services industry and our membership, we are finishing out 2020 with a series of member interviews aimed at giving us a glimpse into their career journeys, spotlighting their challenges and successes.

We hope this series will help provide insight into ways that we can all better stand together and be a strong support system to one another.

Our first interview was with Olivia Barbee, 2020 President of FWSF, and a Marketing Programs Manager at Wells Fargo Bank. We proudly present our second interview with Kim Pugh, Vice President (2021 President-Elect) and Founder and Principal of YurPath Solutions. Enjoy.

What should people know about you, Kim?

No matter how much your background may prepare you, developing the agility to overcome barriers is critical.

My stepfather was one of the early African American executives that worked in corporate America in the 1960s. He later became an entrepreneur and started his own businesses. My mother attended university to become a teacher and, like many women of her generation, married early and was a homemaker.  However, by the time I reached my teens, she managed a small local newspaper and became an entrepreneur working alongside my stepfather. “Business” was a daily part of life growing up and was a frequent subject of conversation at the dinner table. I was taken to business events and, when appropriate, sat in on meetings, negotiations, etc. Summers, I worked for my mother’s newspaper

In high school, I attended a private prep school and was always one of the top students. I obtained an internship at a large corporation where I worked all 4 summers of college learning business through completing assignments in various departments such as Accounting, Auditing, IT, Legal, Payroll & Pensions, etc.  While completing my MBA, I was recruited into a management development program at another large corporation and started the position upon graduation. I was now in my first real job and already supervising others

Even though I was braced for difficulties in the working world due to my race and gender, it was still a “jolt to the system” that no matter how high our performance, it was clear that my fellow African American colleagues and I were not always wanted and occasionally barely tolerated by management and co-workers.  I sometimes found it challenging to network, find mentors, and sponsors even though I had been successfully doing this in the past. There seemed to be a “silent refusal” to engage with someone like me on this level that I soon learned was a shared experience with other African American professionals.

It is important for women and people of color to develop strategies to navigate and find support even when faced with these types of environments

What was your career journey and how do you believe it was positively or negatively affected by being a woman of color?

I was recruited into a large financial services company’s management development program while still in grad school. I had management responsibility early on and was able to progress and round out my experience there and at other financial institutions in a number of areas such as financial analysis, operations management, product design & development, sales/business development, large corporate relationship management, customer research & user experience, digital channels, process re-engineering, M&A, etc. I later began a consulting practice that focuses on financial services and other industry segments.

Being a woman of color has been a challenge in a variety of ways. Opportunities are sometimes more difficult to come by (even with the best track record and demonstrated ability). Once the opportunity has been obtained, the level of success frequently must be significantly above the norm for it to be recognized.  

Occasionally, being a woman of color is of benefit if organizations are looking to incorporate diversity and inclusion. Opportunities may then be available that have been elusive in the past.

What/Who has helped you get ahead in your career and professional life?

What has helped most is consistently achieving results above and beyond expectations. Raising my hand for the difficult assignments and possibly for things that had not been tried or achieved before … and succeeding. You build confidence and trust that you will “get the job done” and you become the “go-to” person. Your success becomes the success of management and partners. As a result, you will gather sponsors and those willing to advocate for you.

In addition, building relationships with management and colleagues is a major plus. (Successfully achieving results will also often help you initiate and foster those relationships.)

In your opinion, what challenges do people of color have in the workplace?

Being overlooked and not seen. Not being viewed (or even thought about) as a person to consider for various opportunities even when qualified with a demonstrated track record and tenure. This is where it is important to have sponsors that will advocate for you.

What challenges have you faced as a woman of color?

When I think back about my career, one of the things that was frustrating was sometimes having to continuously prove my capabilities, often to the same people, even though I had a long track record of achievement that they were fully aware of. Once granted an opportunity, these same individuals would then be surprised (again) when I successfully accomplished whatever the given initiative. White males seem not to require the same level of past accomplishment to obtain an opportunity. Once they have demonstrated just some success, they are given the benefit of the doubt and rewarded with promotion and greater opportunities.

As it has been noted by many that have studied challenges faced by women and people of color in corporate America … White males are judged on potential while women/people of color are judged upon proven track records. 

This paradigm is made worse when it becomes a “Catch-22” situation for women/people of color. If you are infrequently given the chance to prove yourself, you are less likely to have the necessary track record demonstrating the capabilities required to receive further opportunities and to be promoted to the next level.

Can you talk about the importance of having a network for a woman of color making her way up in the workplace?

A network is important for everyone and particularly for a woman of color to navigate the workplace and beyond. Your network may be able to assist with items concerning your job, alert you of opportunities, provide support, etc. A network ensures that you are not alone … you have others to turn to for assistance

What can women of color and their allies do to support equal pay and equal opportunities for women and minorities?

Once you reach management level, you will likely be able to provide and influence equal pay and equal opportunities. Regardless of your position, you can join internal organizations at work (if they exist) that enable employee advocacy by providing feedback and dialogue with management. There are external organizations that you can join that advocate equal pay and equal opportunities.

What can organizations like FWSF do to continue supporting the advancement of women in business?

In addition to the scholarship, programs, and networking the organization already provides, being a source of education and information to the greater business community to help foster the advancement of women.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

I hope that many of you were able to attend our virtual event “Passing The Torch: Celebrating 100 Years of HERstory.” (The recording is available here.) I found particularly inspiring the video montage of women, shown during the event, who have achieved such extraordinary accomplishments in the last 150 years, mainly during times when women had no rights or status. (Several were women of color.) If these women had the fortitude to do what they did in the face of such extreme adversity, then we should be able to move the needle so much further.

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