As president and CEO of the Community Bank of Delaware, Lynda Messick likes to tell young women a story about the first time she encountered blatant compensatory inequality. It was 1979 and she was a vice president with the First National Bank of Georgetown. She also happened to be in charge of bookkeeping, and one day saw that her male counterpart—who had the exact same position and level of responsibility—made more than she did.
“The lame answer I got when I showed my boss was that he was older than me, that he had X number of children, that he needed to make more money,” recalls Messick. “I knew I could fight it and probably curtail my upward mobility—or I could suck it up and keep sloughing ahead. So I just accepted it. But see, the thing was, I always had a vision of one day having a bank of my own. I knew I would outlast the other guy.”
When asked if she considers herself particularly exceptional among women, Messick says yes—but with a qualifier.
“I think my success is an exception, but I don’t think my abilities are exceptional,” she says. “I think success has a lot to do with how you look at opportunity, which is what separates me from the girl next door, and what will separate successful women to come.”