In this installment of Geezeo One-To-One, Amy Hibbard spoke with Natalie Bartholomew, The Girl Banker, about the benefits, challenges, and passion of being a woman in the banking and financial services industry.
Geezeo: You started your blog in 2017, what was your motivation for launching a blog focused on women in banking?
Natalie: Having been a career banker, yet relatively young in comparison to most bank executives, I was seeing a huge need for a women in banking advocate. I had closely followed Jill Castilla and was watching her build her brand as a woman in community banking and admired that people were paying attention to what she was doing. She was breaking the mold. I also was tired of attending banking conferences and conventions and leaving with the question of “where are all the women?” I had been urged for a while by my mentor, Allyson Twiggs Dyer of the Twiggs Group to start a blog but never felt that I had anything to say that anyone would care to read about. Until it hit me one day that my “why” had been in front of me the whole time… women in banking needed a voice and an advocate and I could be that person. I also found myself in a transition to a bank that empowered me to do my job and start the blog so I pulled the trigger and here I am!
Geezeo: You’re passionate about building a strong personal brand, what is the best advice you can give someone on how to develop a successful personal brand?
Natalie: Understand your audience and be the most authentic YOU that you can be. People bank with people and putting yourself out there as someone that people know and trust whether it is on social media or in your community can produce a great ROI for both your career and your bank. But you MUST be authentic.
Geezeo: When people talk about working women the topic of work-life balance usually comes up. What's your work-life balance like? How many hours a week are you actually working on average? Since your blog is on your time when you go home, do you feel like you ever fully turn off?
Natalie: My take on work-life balance is that it is non-existent and women that are chasing “balance” will likely never find it and end up frustrated and even more unbalanced. We all are struggling daily to deal with the pressures and guilts attached to the working mom schedule. When I’m excelling at work, I feel like I’m failing at home and visa versa. At the end of the day, it’s about trying your best, communicating with your coworkers and partner about expectations, and not being afraid to exercise self-care. I often talk about my lack of balance and struggles with mom guilt on my blog and on my social profiles because that’s me being authentic and honest. I have active 9 and 3-year-old boys, an amazing husband that picks up the slack daily and serves as a true partner, not to mention an hour commute to work… I basically fake it till I make it all the time!
Geezeo: Are there any unique challenges for women in finance that you would like to share?
Natalie: There are likely too many to list in this article but the challenges I hear the most about through my interactions on the blog from other women in banking are the following:
1. Being taken seriously or feeling heard by upper management
2. Asserting authority without being taken as unreasonable
3. The pay gap is real
4. Receiving the same opportunities for networking (the golfing stigma)
Geezeo: What’s your best advice for women looking to join the financial sector?
Natalie: Do it! The door is wide open now more than ever for women to find satisfying careers in the financial industry. Banking specifically is changing daily and there are a plethora of opportunities to consider, not to mention a growing support base.
Natalie Bartholomew is a career banker with experience in a variety of areas of banking including lending, deposit operations, culture building, and marketing. She currently serves as the Chief Administrative Officer and Vice President of Grand Savings Bank, a community bank in Northwest Arkansas and Northeast Oklahoma.
Natalie has a passion for philanthropy and sits on various boards and committees that serve the Northwest Arkansas region. She was recognized as the 2015 Young Woman of the Year by the Greater Bentonville Area Chamber of Commerce for the NWA Business Women’s Conference and was a member of the 2015 Northwest Arkansas Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 and their 2018 Women In Business list. She received both her bachelors and masters degrees from the University of Arkansas and is a graduate of the Graduate School of Banking in Boulder, Colorado. Natalie is also a member of the Emerging Leaders Council of the Arkansas Bankers Association.
She launched the Girl Banker blog in November of 2017 in hopes of creating a voice for women in banking and working moms. In addition to advocacy for women in banking, Natalie has a passion for educating young women about the banking industry and highlighting those who started their career at a young age. The Girl Banker has been featured in American Banker, the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal, the ABA Bank Marketing Newsletter, Harland Clarke and EPCOR newsletters, and a variety of financial industry newsletters since it’s launch. Natalie also speaks at banking conferences including the American Banking Association National Agricultural Bankers Conference, American Bankers Association Bank Marketing Conference, Graduate School of Banking Colorado Community Bankers Summit, and numerous Women In Banking conferences and events.
Her absolute greatest accomplishments are being mom to sons, Brody and Witten, and wife to Colt. Natalie and her family are avid Arkansas Razorback and Dallas Cowboys fans.