The world will celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, centered around the theme “Press for Progress” – highlighting women everywhere using their influence to enact positive change in their workplaces, communities and the world. Throughout March, we will shine a spotlight on a few Visa women who are taking action driven by their own personal passions. We recently spoke with Mary Taylor, Senior Director Global Network Processing at Visa, to learn why education and action are essential to continued progress.
Tell us a little about yourself and how you arrived at Visa.
I’m one of four children, and the only girl, originally from New Jersey. My parents highly valued education and social awareness. My parents were both among the first to go to college from their families. In fact, my Mom was the very first woman in her family to go to college and she recently earned her PhD.
After college I started as an administrative assistant for NACHA - The Electronic Payments Association – and learned about electronic debits and credits exchanged among banks. In 1997, I was recruited by Visa to work as an account manager. I’m fortunate to have been introduced to electronic payments as they were taking off and have developed a very specialized knowledge of payments systems. Currently, I’m in the Global Network Processing organization in Foster City and manage a team of very talented product managers.
What are you doing to press for progress?
I have a bias for action – outside of work, I’ve learned I can influence and help change the state of political leadership. I support and serve on the California Advisory Board of Ignite National, a non-partisan, 501 c3 organization devoted to helping young women become civically engaged, find their political voice and ultimately pursue elected office. Ignite helps young women learn how to advocate for an issue, how to run a campaign, and how to forge their path to political leadership. Studies have shown how important encouragement is for young women who want to lead.
What are your thoughts on the need for women to press for progress?
I couldn’t be more of an advocate for the idea AND practice. I have enjoyed a very fortunate life, but much of that has come from a couple of key factors. First, my family championed gender equality and the value of education (let’s just say a “C” grade was not considered passing). Secondly, women have long fought and sacrificed much for the right to be treated equally and to be afforded the same opportunities as men – including the fundamental right to vote. If not for the women before me, like the Suffragettes or those who pressed for women’s equality in the late 60s and early 70s, I may not have had a free, public education, been able to sign a loan for a new car or a mortgage, or even have my own Visa card. I owe them a debt.
That said, progress feels stagnated. There is a lack of women in key leadership roles especially in the private sector in C-level positions and in the public sector, women in elected offices. Both share some things in common: many women don’t raise their hand for a promotion and they may not feel they could run for office themselves, unless someone suggests it to them. And, there may be hidden reasons why women aren’t moving up in these areas – some studies have shown that success may have more to do with likeability than competence.
In our current global environment, what do you think is the climate for progress?
I am heartened that since the 2016 US election more women are running for office than ever – various media reports have recently highlighted the trend. This year, Ignite will train 5,000 young women in college and high school on how to become civically engaged and pursue political leadership. But, that may not be enough. Women are 51% of the population, yet hold only 19% of congressional offices, 24% of state legislator seats, 12% of governorships and 18% of mayors. It’s been that way for years and hasn’t changed.
Who or what has inspired you to press for progress?
In my personal life, my Mom. If it wasn’t for her cousin Frank mentioning in front of her parents that she should think about college, she might have never considered it. If she hadn’t gone to college, how would my life have been different?
At Visa – we have some incredible women. Ellen Richey, Vice Chairman, Risk and Public Policy, clerked for Supreme Court Associate Justice Lewis Powell – how many women did that before her? I would bet not many. And, have you met Adama Iwu? I did - just wow!
Recently I was inspired by the words of Stacey Abrams, who is running for Governor of Georgia. At Ignite’s recent Young Women's Political Leadership Summit event in San Francisco she said, “Your ambition is not just for you, it’s for the woman sitting next to you who doesn’t have the light for herself.”