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Susan Sheffield

Financial empowerment extends beyond financial literacy month, is a yearlong focus

As National Financial Literacy Month in April comes to a close, critical issues like financial insecurity and inequitable access to financial education resources remain relevant in our communities in real and tangible ways. While we have begun to turn the corner in the COVID-19 pandemic, recent research has shown the effect the past year’s turmoil has had on women and other under-resourced communities, impacting their careers, livelihoods and personal financial wellness.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, through the first quarter of 2021, women’s participation rate in the labor force has dropped to 56%, the lowest it’s been since 1988. Moreover, Black women’s participation rate in the labor force dropped just below 60% in February, the lowest it has been since 1993. More than 2.3 million women in the U.S. have dropped out of the labor force since the pandemic began, compared to 1.8 million men. Key drivers of this concerning trend are reported to include job loss or a family-driven need to stay home as normal life was put on hold.

Women who haven’t historically had access to financial education resources and support systems were at a particular disadvantage over the course of the last year. Helping connect them to financial wellness information so they can prioritize their financial futures has never been more important. 

For our part, I’m proud that KEYS® by GM Financial, which offers education on building credit, better managing debt, demystifying the car-buying process and much more, is helping reach more women and those living in under-resourced communities to do just that.

If you or someone you know is looking for a place to start, I would encourage a visit to KEYS® Online, which offers easy-to-understand, engaging learning modules for all phases of life, including courses for rebuilding your financial security, planning for retirement, preparing to buy your first home and more.

Beyond just expanding access to educational resources that help narrow the financial literacy gender gap in our communities, companies like ours must also intentionally and effectively develop and support the women in our workforce. At GM Financial, nearly 60% of our team members are women, with women also comprising 45% of our people leaders. Though the “right” balance between home and work will look different for every working woman, as a company, we aim to ensure team members have the support, tools and resources they need to thrive, including implementing specific women-focused programs as part of our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) efforts. Certainly, we’re not at the finish line in this regard. However, I believe by sharing what’s working for us, we can contribute to the growing momentum of ideas to empower and support women, both inside and outside our company and industry. 

GM Financial has developed strong mentorship programs that place a clear emphasis on developing women and professionals of color. In 2020, GM Financial’s Mentoring Program included more than a thousand participants, with 61% women mentees. Of the team members who received a promotion following participation in the Mentoring Program, more than half were women.

The company also values investing in the development of high-potential female leaders. This year, as part of our leadership-focused Menttium partnership, the company’s cohort of mentees is entirely women. Menttium is the pioneer and leader in corporate mentoring programs supporting leadership development and inclusion efforts in the global business community.

Additionally, GM Financial’s Working Parents and Women’s Inspiration Network employee resource groups create a sense of community, share critical resources, and emphasize professional and personal development in women. Over the past year, the flexible work-from-home arrangements our company offered team members helped them prioritize their health and safety, as well as provided support for some of the unique stresses and challenges our working parents have faced during this time. 

In closing, as I reflect back on not only last year, but the past five years we’ve spent building both a dedicated DE&I function and a robust financial literacy program, one thing is very clear: Nurturing female talent in the workplace and empowering improved financial wellness for women in our communities are inextricably connected. At GM Financial, we remain committed to continuing to adapt, evolve and improve our efforts in both of these areas to better fit the needs of our team members, customers and communities across the globe. 



Susan Sheffield
By Susan Sheffield, GM Financial

Susan Sheffield is GM Financial's Chief Financial Officer.

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