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More women at UMB Financial Corporation, headquartered in KC, are in top executive jobs

UMB Shannon Johnson.jpg
UMB Uma Wilson.JPG
UMB Abby Wendel.JPG
Posted at 4:30 AM, Mar 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-31 14:30:10-04

KANSAS CITY, MO — More women at UMB Financial Corporation, which is headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, are shattering the glass ceiling and entering executive positions in a once male-dominated leadership team.

Shannon Johnson, UMB Financial Corporation's executive vice president and chief administrative officer, steadily climbed the corporate ladder at UMB after starting as the manager of the Human Resources Call Center.

"I joined UMB before I got married, before I had my 3 kids and before I decided I wanted a career in banking ...," Johnson said. "In 19 years, I've had nine different jobs with UMB and all of those really as a result of me asking questions, me raising my hand, me suggesting different ideas. It has led me to where I am today."

Uma Wilson serves as UMB's executive vice president and director of Treasury Managment. She credits her mom and dad for teaching her to work hard and always do the right thing.

But she also credited the bank's leadership structure.

"A lot of credit goes absolutely to my team and my manager, or my leader I should say, Jim Rine," Wilson said. "You need someone who is kind of that voice that kind of motivates you."

Abby Wendel is another of UMB's female executives. She is president of the Consumer Bank Division.

"My responsibility covers our 91 branches in our eight-state footprint, our private banking group and our mortgage group," she said. "The joy that I get is by seeing the transformation in how we serve our customers day in and day out."

The prevalence of female executives at UMB is rare in the banking industry. Only 20% of bank executives at the 50 top U.S. banks were women in 2016, according to the Harvard Business Review.

"Candidly, from my career, it has been men who have given me opportunities ...," Johnson said. "I've mostly worked for men. I can say today that the leadership team that we have at UMB is almost half women, half men. I've never been in a more supportive environment with women with each other."

Johnson called her maternal grandmother her champion, because she ran a business and had a family. She said it led her to grow up believing she could, too.

"When you see a woman who is able to balance a very important job and responsibility to an organization as well as to her family and to the community, it gives you permission and an idea that you can do the same," Johnson said.

That doesn't mean there aren't challenges, like asking for time off during the day to be with family.

But when Johnson spoke up, UMB relaxed the rules to allow men and women more flex-time, making executive positions more attractive to women.

Wilson said speaking up also was key in her rise through the ranks.

"Being comfortable in an environment and speaking up your mind and being true to it, that is extremely important," Wilson said.