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Removing barriers to wealth creation with Commerce and Rung for Women.

For almost 160 years, it has been Commerce Bank’s purpose to help customers solve financial challenges so that they can focus on what matters most. We extend our purpose to the communities we serve by supporting nonprofits that work to increase access to economic opportunity.

One of those organizations is Rung for Women, which Commerce has collaborated with since 2019. Recently we sat down with Rung President Leslie Gill to talk about Commerce’s relationship with the nonprofit.

“Rung was created to solve what we see as a systemic issue, not just in St. Louis but across the country: that women face economic, social, and health barriers to wealth creation,” said Gill. “And Commerce has taken a really hands-on approach to helping us solve the issue on a local level.”

“We know that there’s a gender pay gap,” Gill continued. “We know that women are often sandwiched between caring for young children and aging parents, and that they are less likely to have retirement savings than men. We wanted to build a space where women could truly invest in themselves, both personally and professionally, and start on a path to creating generational wealth.”

“Rung’s mission aligns beautifully with ours,” said Becki Feldmann, senior employee experience and brand strategist in talent management at Commerce. “Like Rung, we’re committed to nurturing an inclusive and diverse culture where people can thrive and grow professionally. We invest in our team members and in the communities we serve, and Rung takes the same approach with their members. It’s a long-term relationship they’re building, just like we are with our team members and customers.”

Unlike job placement agencies that focus on getting high volumes of entry-level workers into jobs, Rung’s career accelerator model focuses on retention and advancement. “We serve a population of women that many nonprofits aren’t designed to serve,” remarked Gill. “We’re not a crisis organization. All our cohort members have stable housing, and 99% of them are working and are interested in either accelerating into a new career or advancing in their existing career.”

“At Commerce, providing development opportunities and focusing on career growth for our team members are top priorities. We have some inspiring success stories of team members joining Commerce in early career roles and over time, moving to executive leadership roles. From a personal perspective, I joined Commerce in 2000 as an analyst,” said Kim Jakovich, SVP and executive director of talent management.

Rung offers two six-month Career Foundations cohort programs each year, with 80 members in each cohort. The average cohort member is in her late 30s, and one eligibility criteria is that incoming cohort members are making less than $50,000 per year. Beyond creating a supportive, growing community, the program focuses on career coaching. Comprehensive support services including wellness assessments, individual therapy and even on-site medical care; and individual financial coaching. Upon completion of the Career Foundations program, members continue to receive — and give — career advancement support through Rung’s Member Success network. Rung will serve its 500th cohort member this spring.

Commerce team members Janelle Chandler, a senior talent management consultant, and Kristie Polizzi, a talent management manager, helped Rung design an eight-week Professional Power Skills curriculum that incorporates topics from executive presence and communications to building relationships with senior leaders. “The knowledge that the Commerce team has provided is now imprinted on the entire program, and their curriculum has been a huge success,” reported Gill.

Rung for Women group photoCommerce team members have also conducted personal branding and networking sessions on an ongoing basis, and RISE, Commerce’s own women’s Employee Resource Group, has joined forces with Rung on multiple events. 2024 events will include personal branding and speed networking workshops as well as a resume and LinkedIn profile building session.

“Commerce is a great blueprint for us,” added Gill. “Our objective is to build relationships with employer stakeholders that span years and even decades, just like the relationships we’re encouraging our cohort members to build. These relationships are not transactional. And Commerce has been there with us as we grow and evolve – we’re learning together.”

Feldmann agrees. “It’s inspiring to see an organization so laser-focused on empowering women to build the generational wealth they have every right and ability to create. Rung’s program is truly designed to create systemic change, and we’re here to support it, as we have been and will continue to be.”

For more information on Rung, visit their website where you can donate, sign up to volunteer, and explore other ways to get involved.

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