We’re introducing this year’s Women Who Mean Business honorees. Click here to read more profiles.
Lydia Ramirez initially wanted to be a doctor. A single class involving needles and blood quickly helped her change her mind. Now, through banking, she says she’s found another meaningful way to help others.
At Five Star Bank she holds three titles: senior vice president, chief operations officer and chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer. But those are just her official job duties. In addition, she works with both the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Black Chamber of Commerce. She’s also part of the incoming class of the American Leadership Forum, an organization that aims to create diverse networks of leaders invested in personal and community change.
Whatever the role, Ramirez sees herself as an advocate.
“I have a been a servant of the community for years, and predominantly in a way that reaches under-resourced and underserved communities,” she said.
Ramirez worked for nearly two decades at Union Bank, where she’d spent much of her tenure in sales before moving into the role of vice president. In 2017, she completed a low-residency program with the Consumer Bankers Association Executive Banking School. That same year, a recruiter from Five Star Bank approached her.
The company wanted a candidate with a background in sales and executive leadership. Ramirez — who was considering moving her two young sons across country to take on new challenges — found herself intrigued by the bank’s mission to bring a “boutique” experience to its customers.
“I thought, this is my opportunity to do something new,” said Ramirez, who has a bachelor of arts in Spanish language literature from University of California Davis and a Master of Business Administration from California State University Sacramento.
She joined as the company’s executive director of branch administration, placing her focus on how to implement a better banking experience. The “boutique” approach, Ramirez said, is about “removing barriers” for customers, whether they have an immediate, pressing question or need long-term banking support.
“We believe that the heroes of the greater Sacramento region are our small businesses and our entrepreneurs,” she said. “Our part in that is to be their partner, and to do that hand in hand with them.”
At work or on the various boards on which she serves, Ramirez finds value in guiding others.
“If you can impart the wisdom on somebody else and watch them grow through that process, it’s much more meaningful,” she said.
Shelley Wetton, Five Star Bank’s senior vice president and chief marketing officer, believes Ramirez’s leadership strength is rooted in her “grit and tenacity.”
“She’s an exceptionally hard worker who meaningfully connects with people — an honest and authentic leader who serves her peers and customers while also mentoring the next generation of leaders,” Wetton said.
That authenticity is important to Ramirez. As she embarks on her work with the American Leadership Forum, she’s thought carefully about what she wants from the experience.
“Some of the things that we come across in leadership roles is that we’re afraid to look at our own shadow — because if you keep looking forward, you can keep going,” she says.
Leadership, though, she said, also requires vulnerability.
“It affords us the opportunity to be true and authentic to ourselves — to figure out what is the lifelong passion and to have the balance between the personal and the professional,” Ramirez says.
She hopes the ALF will bring on more than just leadership insights, but a deeper sense of self.
“I’m (asking myself) what this, this journey is going to teach me?” she said. “Am I challenging myself in the ways that I think I want to be challenged? I think this will give me an opportunity to do so.”
What’s been your biggest career mistake or biggest lesson learned in your career so far? One of my first leaders led through fear and I observed how it pushed down the morale and production potential of a team. I made it a goal of my mine to not repeat that style, to treat everyone with empathy, grace and respect. We are people first before we are a position or employee at a company.
New for 2022! Join us for the inaugural Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Forum & Awards! An opportunity to learn about DEI in the workplace and to honor those who are doing it right!
Do you lead or work at one of the Best Places To Work in the Sacramento region? Here’s your chance to brag on what sets your company apart.
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