Celebrating Black History Month: Gabby Stinnett
Knowing your worth and celebrating your identity as a Black woman is a challenge when having to confront racial prejudice on the job. Bank Program Manager Gabby Stinnett has worked in the banking industry for close to a decade where she held roles in wealth management and commercial banking. At Treasury Prime, she plays an integral part in managing and supporting bank relationships. A native of Dallas, Gabby shares how she realized she didn’t have to prove anything to anyone, how she became comfortable expressing her culture, and how she celebrates being Black every day.
What are some of your favorite things about Black culture and being a Black woman? How has your perception of yourself changed over the years?
I absolutely love everything about Black culture and being a Black woman, even with the challenges.
I think Black women in general are almost conditioned to work harder. We're conditioned to give and do more. And having the religious background and upbringing that I had, where I was taught to always be the person to give, always be the person to turn the other cheek — that definitely translated into my career, my personal life, how I approached relationships, and how I perceived my value. I am learning that I no longer need to overcompensate, over-deliver, or overwork. I just need to extend grace to myself, the same grace that women from other backgrounds receive.
Was there a particular time when you realized you didn’t have to prove your worth?
At one of my prior jobs, I was the only African American millennial in my department. I had received a promotion before other people in my group received theirs. That caused a lot of friction internally because they were looking at me, thinking, how is she deserving of this promotion?
I found myself trying to prove to my coworkers that I deserved the promotion. I found myself exerting so much sweat equity doing other people's jobs, and being a people pleaser.
Then I took a step back one day after realizing this isn't scalable. I decided to do an exercise and made my own internal resume of why I deserve to be where I am. And it made me sit back and say, hey, you do not need to over-exert yourself to prove to others that you're capable. You're in this spot because you are qualified.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve encountered in your experience as a Black woman?
If you were to survey 100 black women in corporate America, you'd find that a lot of us at one point or the other have had to code-switch. We're conditioned to show up in a certain manner to be deemed professional. Our hair can’t be in natural styles, it needs to be relaxed or straight. We have to speak a certain way to be heard as eloquent, or we have to look a certain way to secure stature. Because you’re not being judged just by your skin – you’re being judged by your culture, who you are, and how you choose to express yourself.
I started in banking, where not too many people look like me. There was a challenge with me even showing up for work. The regular person would get up, go about their day, show up for work and never have to wonder, am I presentable? Am I acceptable? Whereas, in my day-to-day, there were always these subconscious questions about: Are my nails too long? Is this natural hairstyle going to cause my coworkers to judge me? Or prevent me from being invited into certain rooms?
How did you overcome that to become more comfortable with yourself and how you express your identity?
Black women now are becoming super fearless when it comes to expression, which is what I love. So now you'll see me express myself, unapologetically. I'm more comfortable with expressing myself.
I think it’s also a byproduct of some of the conversations that have happened where you see more celebrities or social elites who are not of African American descent adopting some of these Black aesthetics.
What does Black History Month mean to you?
I was raised to celebrate Black history year-round. I was also raised to celebrate being Black despite the daily adversity. There are so many little things we have to prepare for — driving while Black to even shopping while Black, which means asking for a receipt when we leave the store because there's probably a 50% chance we'll be asked if we actually purchased this.
But even through all of that, I still celebrate being Black. I celebrate Black history and the individuals who paved the way for me to even speak on my experiences today. Because of those who came before me, I'm able to speak about being a program manager at an amazing tech company all while starting a family and thriving as a Black woman. So I'm celebrating being Black.
How do you think Treasury Prime celebrates your identity as a Black woman?
What I think is amazing about Treasury Prime is that I don't feel like a Black woman working here. In prior roles, I don't want to say I felt like the diversity hire – but let's be real.
At Treasury Prime, I feel like an empowered woman. We all see color, but I don't think that I am promoted or given opportunities because I am a Black woman. I am promoted and given opportunities because I am a capable woman. That is a powerful and rewarding feeling. I think that says a lot about just the culture, the people, and the leaders at Treasury Prime.