The importance of mentorship, allyship and sponsorship

September 14, 2023 Chelsey Sleator
Shanelle Davis talks about her career as a woman in finance, and how empathetic allies and supportive mentors have been integral to her success.

Earlier this year, Shanelle Davis was named Schwab’s Head of Operational Resilience. Her team ensures Schwab can continue doing business through disruptions—whether that be a pandemic, an ice storm, or an outage on the company website. And Shanelle brought something really valuable with her to the role: a toolbox of skills designed specifically for resiliency—one that she’s assembled as she’s navigated a career as a woman in finance.

Working as a woman in finance

Shanelle started her career at the Federal Reserve as a traveling bank examiner, and during the banking crisis of 2008, she served as a Federal Reserve Board liaison to the Treasury Department. Out of the 60 bank examiners, Shanelle was just one of five women.

“It was hard for them—both the male bank examiners I worked with and the male bankers I encountered—to take me seriously,” explains Shanelle. “I had to think carefully about how I crafted my messages. But I learned to stay focused on facts and it set me up for future success in the financial industry.”

After 14 years at the Fed, Shanelle began a career in risk management at Scottrade, which led her to TD Ameritrade, and now Schwab, where she’s based out of Westlake, TX. Going through multiple acquisitions added another tool to Shanelle’s resiliency toolbox: she learned to be flexible and focus on what she could control.

“Through it all I’ve gained greater perspective,” explains Shanelle of her experiences.

And while she’s found more gender balance and support as her career has progressed (Schwab was recently named to Forbes’ 2023 list of Best Employers for Women, with a top 10 placement in the banking and financial services category), Shanelle shares a message of mentorship, allyship, and sponsorship as important factors in moving the equity needle.


Working in the banking industry, Shanelle has had male and female mentors. But when she found her first female mentor, it helped her become a better, more well-rounded professional because she felt like she could address all aspects of her life.

“As women, many of us are wives, sisters, and mothers, and we are trying to be a leader in the workplace too,” explains Shanelle. “I can share all of that with my female mentor—I can talk about my full life.”

Active allyship

“You need those allies on your side as well,” she says. “I find allyship in my current manager. He may not be walking a mile in my shoes, but he can empathize, and that helps.”

Shanelle recently felt this support when she was encouraged to prioritize her family after her son broke his femur.


Having a strong, connected network is common career advice. But Shanelle emphasizes that you need to make sure you have people in your network that will really go to bat for you.

“Finding someone who is going to bring your name up in the rooms that you may not be in is key. They know your work and your worth and are going to sit at that table for you,” she says.

Women’s Equality

Shanelle encourages women to stay positive and to focus on what can be controlled, including leveling up skills. She also recommends finding a mentor who you can really talk to and work through challenges with, as well as an ally and sponsor that you can rely on.