Empowering women through community,
advocacy, and support
By Jamie Fox, Manager, Talent Acquisition
Schwab’s Women’s Interactive Network (WINS) is an employee resource group dedicated to helping women advance their careers, demonstrate leadership capabilities, and create outreach programs to help women become more financially literate. We spoke to two Executive Sponsors of the WINS program, Joe Vietri, senior vice president of the Schwab’s Branch Network, and Mary Rosai, senior vice president of Investor Services Client Experience, to find out more about what drives their involvement.
Mary Rosai has been an Executive Sponsor for WINS since 2013 and has been involved since 1999. Her ongoing involvement over the years has led to a natural extension of the leadership Rosai was implementing throughout her day-to-day work. As an Executive Sponsor, Rosai supports and mentors the co-chair leads, reviewing annual strategies, activities, understanding what’s happening in the marketplace, and providing direction on how WINS can help support broader company goals at Schwab.
Joe Vietri initially got involved with WINS about a year and a half ago by sheepishly asking the question “What about me?” when prompted for leadership referrals for the ERG. Vietri says, “I thought, this is something that’s important to me and maybe in my role as head of the Branch Network this could help us advance what we’re trying to do.” As an Executive Sponsor, Vietri acts as a consultant, helps strategize, and keeps the group top of mind in his organization, which is one of the largest in the firm.
“It’s so important in an organization to have the positive reinforcement, the support team, and the support mechanism to lift others up and have a space that’s non-threatening to talk about issues specific to women and their career journeys. I feel very strongly about how important it is that people who are of like-community support each other.”
Mary Rosai, senior vice president of Investor Services Client Experience and Executive Sponsor for WINS
Rosai and Vietri naturally bring different perspectives to the table. Vietri says, “It’s important to me on a couple of dimensions. As a part of the Branch Network, we’re really focused on the relationship model, deepening relationships with clients, being the face of Schwab in our communities. It became clear to me that we want our local offices and the folks in the Branch Network to represent the communities we serve. And with women becoming an even more important part of financial services and the growing demographic, I just saw this as a huge opportunity, along with being the right thing to do.” Vietri met his wife many years ago at Schwab and remembers hearing her perspective on the struggles women face in the industry. “Hearing some of that planted a seed within me,” he says. “Schwab is all about seeing through clients’ eyes, fairness, equality—what can I do to advance that?”
Rosai considers herself very fortunate to have had the support and mentorship of women leaders throughout her career – a key part of why WINS is important to her. “I’ve been very lucky in that any time I’ve been promoted it’s always been by a woman and I’ve had a lot of women mentors. I don’t think a lot of women have that same benefit, so I really want to help others with that,” she says.
Rosai is aware of the complexity behind a women’s network and the sometimes delicate balance it requires when it comes to inclusivity and exclusivity. “As a minority in the workplace, you can either try to achieve distance so that you become more like the majority, or you can, as a moral obligation, play the role of supporting the minority,” she says. “It’s so important in an organization to have the positive reinforcement, the support team, and the support mechanism to lift others up and have a space that’s non-threatening to talk about issues specific to women and their career journeys. I feel very strongly about how important it is that people who are of like-community support each other.”
A key component in the success of WINS is the notion of “allyship.” According to Vietri, WINS is “all about helping create awareness and opportunities for women to advance, grow within our firm. It’s about empowerment, community, and how we come together. Being a male at this firm, I think I have a unique ability to help advance the cause. Obviously we want to see more women join this; I personally want to see men join too. It lends itself to the work we’re doing in other employee resource groups. I know we have 10 other ERGs in the firm and I have a lot of interest in helping advance those. That’s where I see a critical role for me—being male, being at Schwab as long as I have, being responsible for an organization which is largely male.”
“How do we get more to embrace this? I’ve taken it as a personal mission to increase the number of male members of WINS, whether through mentorship, creating ideas together, or finding development opportunities for women specifically in the organization. WINS is a forum where people can learn, network, expand, grow, and instill confidence that the sky’s the limit at Schwab in terms of opportunities. Gender shouldn’t get in the way of that.”
Joe Vietri, senior vice president of Schwab’s Branch Network and Executive Sponsor of WINS
Vietri and Rosai encourage individuals who are either already involved, or interested in becoming involved in WINS, to feel empowered to act. “The vast majority of men want to contribute but they don’t know where to start,” he says. “I thought many years ago that I couldn’t join WINS as a male, and I think that misunderstanding still exists. I tell my counterparts it’s as simple as coming in, sharing perspective, being a mentor to a junior female, aspiring leader—there are many different ways you can contribute.”
Rosai encourages involvement from women in Schwab’s more remote locations whose networks may not be as immediately accessible. “One of the most important aspects of WINs is the ability to scale it,” she says. “We want to help make those connections and empower people locally to grow it organically. I worry about the sole woman in a branch in the middle of the country who doesn’t have a connection. Start your own study group even if it’s virtual. You’re empowered to do that. I love the organic nature of WINS. That’s really why it exists.”
Rosai offers women a call to action: “Don’t forget to turn around and help others. One of the greatest things that happened to me is that I had women advocate for me. Before I became SVP I had two SVPs come to my office, look me in the eye, and say, ‘you need to get this next job and we’re advocating for you.’ It was that strong sponsorship and advocacy that meant so much to me. They didn’t have to do that but they did. It’s just to remember it cuts both ways. Women need to support each other, advocate, and sponsor.”