As the VP of The Office of Diversity and Inclusion with PNC Bank, the former President of the Tampa Bay Diversity Chamber, and an open and out transgender activist, Ashley Brundage has left a permanent mark on the Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg region and beyond.
OUTCOAST had the honor of chatting with Brundage about her career, community commitment, and advice for other transgender men and women in the banking industry.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in the Tampa Bay area, proud to be born and raised here!
What brought you to PNC Bank?
Sheer luck and perseverance! I was searching for an inclusive employer that would not just have me as an employee but also celebrate that I am a proud transgender woman. I made clear from the first interview that I was going to be my true authentic self. After a series of bad interviews with other companies, PNC was welcoming and supportive of me from the very beginning – which for someone who had been struggling internally for some time, was a breath of fresh air. That level of acceptance was and remains to this day, truly invaluable.
Which positions have you held within PNC and how did you land your current role?
I started as a part time teller, moved quickly into a full-time banking position, and obtained my investment licenses. At the same time, I was volunteering my time and building my name in the community. I saw an opportunity to help PNC’s National Diversity & Inclusion team and through my contacts, I built while networking, a position was created for me to showcase the financial value of an enhanced diversity & inclusion program in Florida.
Describe your job.
I am a vice president in The Office of Diversity and Inclusion, which encompasses 36 markets in 22 cities. In this role, I am responsible for enhancing the brand and expertise around D&I within our footprint. I oversee the Diversity and Inclusion Councils for Florida and work closely with the Regional President’s office to grow diverse segments of each market.
What are the top three things individuals and/or companies should consider when selecting a bank?
I think you need to make sure they really support the community that they are serving. Not just with writing a check, they need to show up and volunteer to really truly support the community. They need to make sure to have an actual person’s cell phone number at the bank they can call with questions. For me, this was key to showing people I was transparent and available to handle their needs. Lastly, they need to not just show off their perfect 100% score on the HRC Corporate Equality Index, they need to be striving for more to do better each and every day. That can be done with highlighting their employees to the partnerships they have with LGBTQ+ organizations.
With which regional organizations does PNC partner?
We are excited to begin our 5th year as Equality Florida’s Statewide Presenting Sponsor. Our market supports both Orlando and Tampa’s LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce, as well as MBA Orlando LGBT Chamber of Commerce and numerous other local and national organizations over the last few years.
How does your bank support LGBT employees? Are there policies in place to protect LGBT (especially transgender) employees?
As a main street bank, we know accepting varied and unique perspectives makes good business sense and is the right thing to do. It’s important to note that our long-time support of the LGBT community and our association with Equality Florida has allowed us at PNC to continue to foster diversity & inclusion holistically making us more business savvy, better community partners, and smarter employers.
Actually, something else I’m very proud of is that PNC extended benefits to employees’ domestic partners since 2003! These benefits also apply to domestic partners’ children.
We also offer transgender medical benefits which cover gender confirmation surgery and hormone replacement therapy.
What does PNC do to market their services as LGBT inclusive?
We have a great resource for our customers at PNC.com/LGBTQ. This page is permanent on our website to show inclusion year round, not just during pride month. PNC’s Chairman and CEO Bill Demchak recently said about our support of the LGBT community, “Our culture is built on a set of values and a commitment by our employees to always do what we know to be right by those we serve.”
We were recently recognized by LOGO as a top trailblazing company for LGBTQ+ Equality due to several inclusive marketing campaigns we have created, and we just received the 2017 Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. Our inclusion of diverse markets is ever growing and evolving. The position I am currently in demonstrates PNC’s commitment to inclusion nationwide.
Which organizations are you personally involved with outside of PNC? What roles have you held among these organizations?
I served the community as president of The Tampa Bay Diversity Chamber of Commerce for four years. I am currently advising the board as past president, taking a step back to focus on my career as I am in a national role. I have held board or advisory roles with Equality Florida, Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority, TIGLFF, Ybor Youth Clinic, Trans Action Florida, and numerous student organizations with The University of South Florida & The University of Tampa.
Throughout my involvement in these great organizations I saw a significant need being fulfilled through access to health care, fights for equality, and an opportunity to come together in the community to celebrate and enrich our own lives by sharing and learning about the lives, triumphs and struggles faced by LGBTQ+ individuals from all over the world.
What is the biggest challenge of being a transgender woman in the banking industry?
Winning over people’s trust. Since financial assets are so valuable, having someone really feel comfortable with me as a transgender woman, but also as the individual they are entrusting with their business or personal finances. As a business woman and corporate vice president in a predominately male field, I have faced numerous experiences where I had to work harder to prove myself, my knowledge and my value. Throughout my career, I have found that as I become more involved in the community and seen as more of an advocate, more progress is made each day to overcome the stigmatisms that we unfortunately still face.
What advice would you have for other transgender men and women who are seeking careers in banking?
Be true to yourself. I think you need to make sure you share your status in your personal journey to be fair to your potential employer and yourself. You might find that they don’t embrace diversity & inclusion as well as you’d hoped and discover that you might be more comfortable at a company that does. But self-acceptance is key, in order for those around us to accept us, we must first make sure we TRULY accept ourselves.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I have had some cool things happen to me along my career throughout my journey… I’d say it is a tie between winning the PNC Performance Award, which is our employee hall of fame with only 200 members, and giving the keynote address at the first pride celebration at MacDill Air Force Base. The pride celebration was really significant with leaders from central command and the Tampa Bay Times featuring the event as a cover story. But within my personal life, my greatest accomplishments are my two children, who are beautiful, bright, happy kids.
Who has been the most influential person in your life?
Without a doubt, it would be my true love and best friend of more than 20 years, my wife, Whitney. When I went through the hardest times of my life, she was there for me and the kids and she has supported me unconditionally. Whitney has always been my rock of love and support and the reason we have two amazing children.
Share with us the best advice you ever got from someone?
Sage advice through quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Harvey Milk have inspired me:
- MLK-“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
- Milk- “Rights are won only by those who make their voices heard.”
And for fun….What’s your favorite movie and why?
Wedding Crashers, because I like a good comedy and a quirky love story. And I am a huge fan of weddings, I just love them so much!
Who’s your celebrity Crush? Bradley Cooper
Ashley Brundage will be featured at our upcoming Stories of Pride Event on October 24th from 5:30-8:30 at NOVA 535. To support the work of community leaders like Ashley and to purchase a ticket, click here.
To learn more about PNC’s commitment to equality, click here.