Women at Work: Being the First Means You Hold the Door Open

Jenn Flynn, head of Small Business Bank, shares insights on careers, female founders and the importance of small business

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. 

Hear from Jenn Flynn, head of Small Business Bank at Capital One on key insights from her career and about female founders and small business owners who inspire 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?

Their ability to keep multiple balls in the air while still leading with empathy, compassion and resilience. The concept of multi-tasking, which is always a top challenge for business owners, has been magnified during this pandemic. Watching women navigate this pandemic and run their companies with optimism inspires me day in and day out.

Q: Which female founder do you admire, and why?

I am constantly in awe of my friend Melissa Bradley, the inspirational founder of 1863 Ventures, an organization committed to accelerating Black and Brown entrepreneurs from high potential to high growth through rigorous training and strategic market access. Recently featured in Forbes, Melissa is at the helm of this movement, day in and day out. She is also an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and the founder of Ureeka, a platform that provided more than $100 million in grants to underrepresented entrepreneurs in the last year with the help of corporate partners. Melissa’s commitment to driving sustainable change and making a real difference is admirable. 

Q: Why is working in the B2B space particularly rewarding for you?

Small businesses are the fabric of our communities, and a recent survey from the Federal Reserve Bank shows that three out of every 10 small businesses in the U.S. say they likely won’t survive the pandemic. The outlook is even worse for minority-owned businesses, where eight in 10 cited concerns. 

I am proud to work for Capital One and am honored to be able to make a difference in the lives of small business owners, most recently through the SBA Cares Act Paycheck Protection Program and community outreach to help business owners as they weather the pandemic. The Power of 10 initiative supporting restaurants and our communities, and our partnership with Halcyon helping founders from Opportunity Zones, are a couple of great examples.

Q: What is the impact of women cheering for each other, and how can women better cheer for each other?

Early in my executive career, I was “the first” female CFO to join an all-male commercial leadership team. About six months after joining, another woman was recruited to the table. I specifically remember several of my male colleagues asking me if I was concerned about the “competition” this woman would bring for me, which could not have been further from my perspective. I saw the addition of this female executive as progress. I was proud to be the woman who not only opened the door but also held the door open for her. She became my biggest cheerleader, my coach, my mentor and an integral part of my support network.

Navigating life takes a village. The bonds I have formed with the women in my village, and the male allies who have supported me in my journey, have consistently been a source of strength for me. As the pandemic continues to impact our personal and professional lives — nearly 82% of women surveyed in a new Deloitte study said their lives have been negatively disrupted by the pandemic — I am even more convinced of this need. When women are up against the unique challenges of taking care of their families, homes and careers, having a network of other women experiencing similar challenges makes a difference and helps us all to remain optimistic. 

It is time for us to abandon the notion that there is only one pink chair in the conference room and find the magic that comes from having multiple women at the table!

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