Lori Chillingworth shudders when she recalls the sexism she witnessed at the beginning of her banking career.
“I’d see women come in to apply for a loan, and bankers would ask, ‘Does your husband know you’re here?'” says Chillingworth, who serves as executive vice president of small-business lending at the $19 billion-asset Zions First National Bank in Salt Lake City. “Are you kidding me?”
Chillingworth has since made it her mission to empower women financially and professionally. The winner of this year’s Community Impact award — which Chillingworth accepts on Thursday as part of our Most Powerful Women in Banking and Finance program — aims to cement her legacy with the recent launch of the Women’s Leadership Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to helping Utah women gain prominent roles in politics and business.
The institute is the joint brainchild of Chillingworth and Zions President and Chief Executive Scott Anderson. Each felt that putting more women in leadership positions would benefit society as a whole.
“We need women running companies, sitting on boards and having a voice in the political environment so that the things that matter to women and families and communities are being heard,” says Chillingworth. The alternative, she observes with an audible note of derision, is to be stuck listening to presidential candidates like Donald Trump hold forth on topics like immigration while largely ignoring issues of importance to women and families.
Having established their shared vision, Chillingworth and Anderson asked recently retired Utah state senator Patricia Jones to head up the institute. Chillingworth became executive chair of its board, and Zions made a $250,000 donation to fund the nonprofit for its first two years.