The Woman behind “The Girl Banker”

By Karen Kroll

If you’re a bank marketer who’s active on social media and keeps up with your peers across the country, you’ve likely seen The Girl Banker. Brainchild of Natalie Bartholomew, chief marketing officer at Grand Savings Bank, The Girl Banker is a blog that celebrates women in banking, sharing stories of their struggles and accomplishments and giving them a place to connect with each other. It’s also a resource for the kind of information professional women are always looking for, from how to nail an interview to where to find a good blazer on a budget.

Natalie Bartholomew, CMO at Grand Savings Bank and the engine behind The Girl Banker

“Somebody needs to be talking about this more.”

About a month before she launched her blog, Bartholomew penned a Facebook post about the “mom guilt” she was feeling. “I had been really busy with my job and felt like I was gone more than I was at home,” she said.

She then waited for the responses, not sure what others might say. Bartholomew needn’t have worried. “The responses that I received more than confirmed that somebody needs to be talking about this more.”

The Girl Banker is Bartholomew’s effort to spark that conversation.

Launched in late 2017, the blog covers, not surprisingly, women in banking, as well as more general topics like work-life balance, professional wardrobes, and working moms.

“I have been around at banking long enough to get a good feel for the industry,” said Bartholomew, who’s spent seventeen years in banking. She considered starting a blog several years ago, but decided against it, due mostly to time constraints. She was juggling work, a long commute, and life with her husband and two young boys.

She also questioned what she might have to say that others would want to read. “I’m just a working mom in northwest Arkansas who happens to be a banker.”

Inspiration comes in many forms.

Early in 2017, Bartholomew joined Grand Savings Bank as chief marketing officer. In this position, she started to really feel that her voice was heard, and her presence, respected. “To be empowered to do your job and to do your job well can really be inspiring,” she says.

Bartholomew also began reading about the low number of women in leadership roles within banking. Moreover, many of those who had risen through the ranks said that at one point in their careers, they felt forced to decide between their jobs and their families. She also notes that several years ago, the Arkansas Bankers Association—and probably others throughout the country—had no women on its board. “That was fuel for the fire,” she says. “We needed someone to have a voice and be an advocate for women in this industry.”

It was time to launch The Girl Banker.

One of its most popular features is Girl Banker of the Week, in which Bartholomew profiles different women in banking. That includes women on their way up within the banking industry, as well as those who’ve ascended the ranks. She sees it as an opportunity to give exposure to a variety of women.

Another series, Women in Banking, highlights the women who influenced Bartholomew at different points in her career. One of Bartholomew’s goals is to show the importance of finding a mentor.

The blog also has explored the mom guilt Bartholomew first mentioned on Facebook. Once again, the reception has been positive.

No matter the topic, the goal is transparency, Bartholomew said. “I don’t have it figured out and I’m not ever going to claim to have it figured out.” Rather than offer prescriptions, the blog can help start conversations.

Connecting with the next generation of bankers.

The Girl Banker also seeks to showcase banking as an option for young women who are choosing career paths. When women consider a career in a male-dominated industry like banking against other sectors with more gender balance, Bartholomew noted, they may ask themselves: “Why fight the fight?”

Through the blog, Bartholomew can show the opportunities for women in this industry. “Banks are looking for good qualified women,” she said.

The Girl Banker also lets women in the industry know they’re not alone. Bartholomew says she wants to let other women know they can succeed as a working mom in the banking industry.

Bartholomew says she’s been surprised and overwhelmed by the reception The Girl Banker has received. That’s true both in general and within Grand Savings Bank, where Bartholomew has been upfront about her work on the blog. “They were incredibly supportive and excited about it,” she says.

That includes her male coworkers. Bartholomew noted that she’s not out to disparage men in the industry, but instead to provide a voice for women.

The negative feedback has been few and far between, Bartholomew said. One reader took exception to the name, “The Girl Banker,” stating it should have been “The Woman Banker.”  Bartholomew politely replied that she felt The Girl Banker had more of a ring to it. She is a marketer, after all.

Before launching the blog, Bartholomew occasionally questioned whether it would be worth her time and effort. “I’m thankful when I’ve had those moments, that I had people there to say, ‘No, you need to keep pushing forward and remember who you’re doing this for,’” she said.

Her success with The Girl Banker has also shown Bartholomew that it’s not necessary to pigeonhole oneself into certain roles. She’s been able to continue in banking, while also developing new skills and expertise as a blogger.

Bartholomew said she hasn’t drawn up a detailed roadmap for the blog’s future. Still, “I’m excited to see what the future holds.”

Karen M. Kroll is a business and financial services writer and content marketer based in Minneapolis-St. Paul. Email: karen@karenkroll.com.

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