Women at Work: A Female CFO on Unicorns, Balance and Empathy
Oona Robinson, Chief Financial Officer at Capital One’s Commercial Bank, shares insights and inspiration from her career for women
It’s Women’s History Month, and each Friday this March, we’re highlighting the perspectives of women at Capital One who are making their mark. Our first interview features Oona Robinson, Chief Financial Officer for Capital One’s Commercial Bank.
We asked her to share a few key insights from her career and to tell us about a female founder who inspires her. Stay tuned throughout the month to hear from other inspiring female leaders across Capital One’s Commercial, Small Business Bank, and Small Business Card sectors.
Q. What inspires you about women business owners and corporate leaders?
The amount of deliberate, continued energy required of any business owner is immense. Female owners are expected to be that “unicorn” that can manage and care for everything: the business, their household, children, parents and the community. As a corporate female leader, I look at these women business owners and I applaud them, not knowing how they do what they do each day.
I recently heard someone share the analogy that when minority leaders step up to the plate, they already have two strikes against them. And unless they hit a home run, they are done. This phenomenon is something that women leaders deal with every day: they battle perceptions when they hire people, when they work with customers, and even when they engage with other organizations outside of the workplace.
Q. Which female founder do you admire, and why?
I have a friend whose professional background is similar to mine — we both have years of professional experience with global companies. And she took the courageous step of creating her own company, a ridesharing application that connected families with carpooling opportunities.
For years, I saw how she balanced entrepreneurship (and the challenges that come along with being an early-stage start-up) with being a mother. I also saw how COVID-19 impacted her business; she ultimately had to close the company. But it’s been inspiring to watch her passion, drive, positive attitude and her gratitude for the opportunity to live out her dreams.
Q. What do you like most about working in the business-to-business space?
I’m so passionate about the business-to-business space because it’s truly about building ecosystems that are based on symbiotic relationships across organizations. Many think of business-to-business as purely technology platform play, but it’s really about removing friction and increasing the value proposition for both businesses. Technology is a fundamental piece of this, but it simply becomes the enabler when you find that mutual value and you’re able to improve or create a solution. There are endless creative opportunities in this space.
Q. How have female role models and mentors helped you throughout your career?
I’ve been fortunate to have both male and female role models and mentors throughout my career who’ve treated me exactly as high potential males would be treated. They’ve provided me stretch assignments, challenged me to step into roles that are emotionally uncomfortable and held me accountable.
When I had a female leader, there was one critical twist in the relationship: when life events occurred, such as becoming a mother or caring for an ill family member, this leader allowed me to step back and focus on those important parts of my life. Her empathy and understanding made me feel more comfortable that these personal events wouldn’t impact my career prospects or long-term growth.