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Q&A: Capital One on Making Work Great for Women

Q&A: Capital One on Making Work Great for Women

Image: Jennifer Windbeck, senior vice president and head of branches, cafés, and private banking at Capital One.

Cigar lounges and wheeling and dealing over 18 holes of golf isn’t only outdated – it’s exclusive. But the Best Workplaces for Women™ aren’t pushing women aside in favor of the “old boys’ network.”

Capital One creates an inclusive culture for all its employees. The financial services firm earned outstanding employee survey marks, helping them make number 12 on the 2020 Best Workplaces for Women list.

We spoke to Jennifer Windbeck, senior vice president, head of branches, cafés, and private banking at Capital One. Jennifer told us how her company is rewriting working “norms” for women in the workplace.

Great Place to Work: We've noticed a striking jump in the number of financial services firms ranking in the top 20 Best Workplaces for Women in the past year – from 3 to 9. Do you notice the industry overall changing such that financial services – once very male-dominated – is becoming more welcoming to women?

Jennifer Windbeck: Change is certainly a constant, and the financial services industry is no different. Having begun my journey in the industry in 1996, I’ve personally witnessed that evolution.

The industry has moved from an atmosphere where women generally had to assimilate to traditionally male norms – adapting their communication styles, networking approaches, leadership strategies, business decisions, and even attire in order to be successful – to an environment where individuality is accepted and women are represented more than ever at senior levels.

Organizations with diverse leadership teams attract diverse talent, make better decisions, and drive improved business results. At Capital One, we focus continually on increasing representation of women and people of color, and we believe it’s critical that diversity be reflected at every level and across every organization.

Great Place to Work: What’s been happening in your own company to make it a great place to work for women?

Jennifer Windbeck: Rather than treating equality as a fractional obligation to tick off a checklist, we genuinely believe that bringing together people of different ages, abilities, ethnicities, gender, races, religions, and sexual identities is a key driver of innovation.

From our founding days, we’ve been committed to creating a workplace culture that embraces diversity and supports the advancement of women of all levels and roles. Whether through expanded benefits, equal pay, or the support of our Women’s Network (EmpowHer), Capital One is committed to the growth and success of our women associates.

And just as critical is our focus on supporting women in our communities. We remain steadfast on cultivating solutions based on financial, physical and emotional well-being through activities like educational programming in our branches and cafés; pro bono and volunteerism; and support of women-owned small businesses.

We believe these investments get us one step closer to building an equitable society.

Great Place to Work: Can you share a story or two of what things used to be like for women in the financial services field, and how they’ve changed, at least at your company?

Jennifer Windbeck: While there’s still room for improvement, the financial industry is significantly different today, with women leaders driving and shaping more inclusive cultural and business models.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, representation by women in senior leadership positions was very low. So as a young woman beginning my career, when I looked up the chain of command, I didn’t see many women to serve as role models. The few senior women were inspirational, but many necessarily acculturated to traditionally male communication and leadership styles.

Today, across the industry, we’ve made great progress with more women in the executive ranks interacting and leading in a more personalized, unique manner. I now see more inclusive communication styles and decision-making models. 

There’s also more variety in the types of social and networking activities among colleagues, including attending cultural and spectator sporting events, fitness routines, lunches, etc. Social media forums like Slack provide a digital connection so networking feels democratized where there’s something for everyone.

Great Place to Work: In our study of women in the workplace, men executives were 2.6 X more likely to perceive fair treatment regardless of gender compared to women executives. We call this “executive blinders.” Why do you think this happens?

Jennifer Windbeck: It’s essential for leaders to create a workplace where everyone feels safe, included, valued and accepted. That begins with an intentionality to recognize and disrupt less inclusive cultural norms. Leaders must pause, contemplate culture and routines, and deliberately create more inclusivity, otherwise organizations get caught in the inertia. 

Simply having more women in leadership positions helps to create that inclusivity, better demonstrating where inequities lie, simply as a result of conditioning. Allyship by senior-level men is important in this journey, too; I’ve seen great outcomes in that regard from inclusivity training and awareness.

Great Place to Work: How has your company responded to the COVID-19 pandemic in ways that were positive for women in particular?

Jennifer Windbeck: Capital One became one of the earliest companies to institute a work-from-home policy across all of our campuses, instantly transforming how and where we work.

We quickly adjusted our offerings to provide associates and leaders with the resources they needed including, but not limited to:

  • Discounted membership and fees for nannies and babysitters
  • 15 days of back-up care annually at no cost to associates
  • Up to 20% off in-person or virtual tutoring
  • Free access to online summer camp that includes 50+ activities

We’ve also gone to great lengths to support our essential workers in branches, approximately 75% of whom are women. Branch associates have the added challenges of leaving home and working directly with the public during the pandemic. 

We’ve provided additional support to branch associates through things like premium pay, additional paid time off and family care days, scheduling flexibility, transportation stipends, PPE and more.

Great Place to Work: Is there anything you’d like to add?

Jennifer Windbeck: I get a lot of inspiration, joy and perspective from my young niece and nephew. Seeing the world through their eyes gives me an immense appreciation for the role, responsibility and position I have as a leader to continue to do more to advance equality.

It certainly takes a village, and I am proud of the strides we’re making as an industry to welcome young women with the same opportunities that men haveto pursue their dream careers.

And just as equally, I’m proud to work for a company that recognizes its responsibility to leverage the strength of its values and reach of our resources to serve as a catalyst for societal change in our communities as well.

See our full list of Best Workplaces for Women.

Does your company create an inclusive employee experience? Nominate your workplace for one of our Best Workplaces™ awards.


Claire Hastwell