Why Keith Mestrich, Bank President, Signed the GenderAvenger Pledge Not to Speak On All-Male Panels

Keith Mestrich

I’ll confess: I’ve spoken on all-male panels before.

During my extensive career in the labor movement and in finance, I’ve had the opportunity to speak on a wide array of panels, and not all of them have been particularly balanced. The total lack of female voices at these events felt distinctly paternalistic and non-inclusive.

Luckily, that’s an experience I will never have again. I was one of the first signers of the GenderAvenger Pledge. By adding my name, I agreed not to serve as a panelist at a public conference where there are no women presenting.

I signed the GenderAvenger Pledge because all-male panels lack the diversity to create better solutions, strategy, and ultimately a better world. I believe it’s important that we collect the thoughts, opinions and perspectives of everyone in our community. By valuing inclusivity and diversity, we reap the rewards of a deeper understanding and a broader perspective, which ultimately leads us to make better choices.

I am the President and Chief Executive Officer of Amalgamated Bank, but the most important role in my life is being the father of three beautiful daughters. For them, seeing women on panels means they feel that their views are important and valued. If they only see men participating in debates or dialogues, it sends a terrible message that their voices don’t matter. 

I want my daughters to have a host of role models and possibilities, to know that their futures are limitless and that their voices are vital. As they grow up and embark on their careers, I never want them to look at a stage full of men and feel unwelcome, or open a conference lineup and not see a single other woman. I want them to always know that they can become leaders in their fields and be inspired by the women they see and hear at the podium. All-male panels are the past. I’m ready for the future.

Join me today in taking the GenderAvenger Pledge. We need voices across every industry to come forward and put an end to the all-male panel. Every signature counts. The more we come together, the closer we get to the future we all want.

(originally published in August 2015)

Keith Mestrich is President and Chief Executive Officer of Amalgamated Bank, the largest majority-owned union bank in the United States. A 25-year veteran of the labor movement, Keith has served as Chief Financial Officer and Deputy Chief of Staff at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and Chief of Staff for SEIU's Workers United Conference. Amalgamated Bank's core customers include unions and their funds, progressive not-for-profit institutions and political organizations, as well as the members of those groups.