5 Minutes with Candace Davenport
IDEA Officer at First Bank, Virginia, and VBA DEI Peer Connections Co-Facilitator

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You are VP/IDEA Officer at First Bank, Virginia. Tell us what this role entails and how you worked towards creating this position at your bank.

In my role as the IDEA Officer, I get to help develop strategies and best practices that promote and encourage engagement and inclusion of internal and external customers as well as the community. I have the privilege of sharing with and learning from a very diverse group of individuals.

Our CEO, Scott Harvard, and I began having conversations about diversity and inclusion after the death of George Floyd. We also began discussing Juneteenth and how we might celebrate. Those conversations were sometimes uncomfortable, always enlightening and provided a great opportunity to learn more about each other and how our lives still connected even though we had/have different lived experiences. The more in-depth conversations we had and the more research I did, it became somewhat obvious that IDEA was bigger than the conversations we were benefitting from having with one another. 

You see, diversity of experience, gender, race, age, background, and other differences enhance the fabric of our banking company, so the decision was made to bring a more intentional focus to that core value. Thus, the role of VP, IDEA Officer was created, and I was appointed to serve in that capacity.

What are you most proud of, in regards to your bank’s DEI efforts so far?

First, I am proud to work with a group of executives who embraced the tenets of IDEA enough to create the position. Second, as we begin to have conversations within the bank, I have the awesome privilege of getting to hear and see how small changes are having an impact; and how some have been eager to start learning, sharing, growing and embracing the concept of IDEA. Third, we were able to create a shirt with a word cloud that gives a nod to IDEA without being overpowering and ultimately sending subliminal messages.

Juneteenth is coming up soon. Tell us about your bank’s event and partnership with Fremont Street Nursery, or anything else you want to share about this celebration.

This will be our third year celebrating Juneteenth with Fremont Street Nursery. The Nursery was founded in 1943 as the Negro Day School and we wanted to recognize the existence of the daycare and celebrate its rich history in the community. It’s also an opportunity to continue educating the students, staff, and parents about the significance of the holiday as well as engage with our community. There’s a short program, lunch, and Juneteenth-themed gifts provided to the students and staff. Community members that have made an impact on the daycare - whether as a teacher, a former student, or a donor – are also invited to attend the festivities.

Bank employees get to share their artistic talents by painting the children’s faces with fun designs and providing musical entertainment throughout the day. Our CEO, Scott Harvard, and President, Dennis Dysart, can be found manning the grill while other employees set up and serve lunch. A great time is had by all!!

What’s one new challenge or project that you are currently working on that excites you?

A new challenge for me is helping to develop and co-chair the DEAI Committee for a non-profit organization that I serve on the board.

The VBA just held its first-ever DEI Peer Connections meeting this month, with you serving as co-facilitator. Tell us about what the group means to you and what you took away from the meeting.

The peer connections group means that I have an opportunity to network with, grow and learn from others who are championing values that make us better people, companies and communities.

One of the things I took away from the meeting is regardless of the types of industries we serve, this work is a journey that will help make our companies and communities a more equitable place to work and live.

ELEVATE is a newsletter for women in banking and those who support them. What do you see as the biggest challenge and opportunity for women leaders in the industry?

Though we have a number of great women leaders in the industry who continue to forge a path for others, I believe the biggest challenge is to find ways to engage more male executives to become mentors, sponsors and champions of women to help us grow in more senior level and executive roles.

The biggest opportunity for women leaders is to continue to use their influence, expertise and voices to recognize and champion other women leaders.

If you could only share one piece of advice with other women leaders in banking, what would it be? Is this from your experience or did someone give this advice to you at some point in your career?

Give yourself GRACE - Gently Release All Conscious Expectations. I heard this while listening to some affirmations one day and it stuck with me.

Your Media Mix:

  • Favorite song? Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On
  • Favorite podcast? Michelle Obama - The Light
  • Favorite book? Too many to choose one - A New Earth, Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose - Eckhart Tolle
  • Favorite TV show? This Is Us, when it was on the air, and anything on HGTV
  • Favorite movie? Sweet Home Alabama

Lightning Round:

  • Favorite VBA event or memory: Executive Leadership Institute
  • What is your secret weapon? Curiosity
  • I always start my day with…Meditation and exercise
  • Favorite weekend activity: Relaxing and reading
  • If I wasn’t a banker, I would be…Professional volunteer :)
  • What do you consider your biggest accomplishment - career or otherwise? My son, Ian
  • How would you spend one million dollars? Traveling and sharing with others.
  • If you could host a talk show, who would be your first guest? My Pop (dad)
  • What’s the most-used app on your phone? Audible and MasterClass
  • What is the top thing still left on your bucket list? A trip to Africa
  • What would someone be surprised to learn about you? I learned the alphabet in reverse as a brain exercise.