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Woman-Run by Wright Lindsey Jennings Presents Karen Shaw

3 min read
Karen Shaw has spent 19 years working for Citizens Bank, becoming their CFO in 2013. She is a CPA and was selected as Arkansas Business’ Bank CFO of the Year in 2021.  Before Citizens Bank, she spent eight years at Ernst & Young, providing accounting and audit services to banking, health care, transportation, and communication clients.
Shaw graduated from the University of Central Arkansas with a bachelor’s degree in business administration with highest honors in accounting. She is also a Leadership AR graduate (Class XV). Giving back to the community is important to Shaw, and she enjoys volunteering and serving on several boards. She lives in Batesville with her husband, Edward, and they own a cattle farm on 80 acres in Cushman. They have two children, Kayla and Collin.


As a successful woman in leadership, what experiences most shaped your career and philosophy?

I worked for great leaders. Each led by example and gave me countless opportunities to learn and become a leader myself. At times, I was pushed out of my comfort zone but received encouraging words of their belief in my ability to succeed. This empowered me to take additional risks and inspired me to be a leader that genuinely cares about helping others be successful.

What advice do you have for keeping a team focused and motivated in challenging times?

Put people first! They are your greatest asset. Make sure everyone on your team knows they are valued. Always be empathetic, and show you truly care. Ask your team members what they need. Really listen and then do what you can to help. Always be honest and acknowledge that uncertainty and challenges exist, but we will get through it together.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

I was humbled and honored to be selected as Bank CFO of the Year during 2021 and in the midst of the pandemic. I am also proud to have been part of the leadership team that grew Citizens Bank from $400 million in assets in 2003 (the year I came to the bank) to $1.2 billion today.

Who has been the biggest influence on your life and career?

My dad, Gerald Freeman, was a loving, single parent to my brother and I after my mother passed away when I was twelve. He demonstrated a can-do attitude and an unmatched work ethic during tragic circumstances. He taught me how to manage during crises and how to overcome them. I learned to be versatile in difficult times and to embrace change rather than fear it.

Tell us the most meaningful piece of career or life advice you have received.

Choose a job you love! Work for someone you admire and trust who shares the same values as you. Practice basic principles that should never be compromised: live a life of integrity, and always do your best. Finally, in both business and daily life, surround yourself with a diverse group of extraordinary people who know things you don’t know!

How do you like to de-stress after a difficult day/week?

I am an avid sports fan and enjoy watching and attending both high school and college basketball and football games! On Sunday, worshiping with my church family has always been important in my life and remains the best way to forget about all of the stresses of my week.

Woman-Run is a statewide initiative supporting woman and minority business leaders through networking, mentorship, education and resources. Find out more: wlj.com/woman-run.
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