Each year since 1948, on the third Thursday of October, International Credit Union (ICU) Day celebrates the spirit of the global credit union movement. While there are many noteworthy milestones to celebrate this year, one achievement that seems particularly timely is advancements in gender equality in the credit union movement.
Credit unions were founded on the cooperative principle. Nondiscrimination is a tenant of that principle, which means credit unions are innately more likely to be receptive to ideas surrounding gender parity. Data indicates the credit union industry is indeed more progressive in this area than many others: more than 50 percent of credit unions have women CEOs, a higher figure than most industries. And with a large number of credit union CEOs slated to retire within the next several years, that percentage could increase if there is a pipeline of strong female leaders ready to move into those open roles.
In 2009, the World Council of Credit Unions established the Global Women’s Leadership Network (GWLN) to tackle the industry’s gender gap while also leveraging resources to strengthen the economic security of women and their families. The GWLN is the credit union industry’s only international platform dedicated to addressing and facilitating greater gender balance among leadership positions. Its mission is to provide women with the opportunity and resources available to make a measurable difference in each other’s lives, as well as in the lives of credit union members and in their communities.
Today, the GWLN has 54 Sister Society chapters in 17 countries – representing more than a 50 percent increase in one year alone. As a result of these expanding chapters, communities across the United States and internationally have been positively impacted. This year marked the first time the GWLN and the World Council Young Credit Union Professionals held their joint lunch session together. The joint session, which took place during the 2018 World Credit Union Conference in Singapore earlier this year, included a diversity and inclusion program geared toward promoting the advancement of women and young leaders worldwide, and leveraging opportunities presented by the World Credit Union Conference to promote professional development. It represented a unique opportunity to bring both of these highly passionate and engaged groups of professionals together to interact and have a positive dialogue about the credit union industry.
Looking ahead, the GWLN will host its second annual Executive Readiness Summit in Chicago next month. The goal of this summit is to increase the female executive pipeline by equipping emerging credit union and payments leaders with various skills, knowledge, networks and action plans. It will focus on critical competencies including professional development, negotiation, succession planning, branding and networking. Prior to the summit, participants will evaluate their strengths, weaknesses and development areas through a self-assessment. Activities during the summit will address the needs identified in the assessment by offering hands-on assistance through professional training, knowledge sharing and skill-building activities.
PSCU is a longtime supporter of the GWLN and a sponsor of this year’s Executive Readiness Summit. In addition to being a champion for women’s leadership globally for a decade, PSCU continues to promote diversity within its workforce, with a laser focus on fearlessly leading the charge to make gender equality a true reality. The CUSO strives to be a change maker not only within its own walls, but by also looking for opportunities to collaborate with partners like the GWLN to promote and support women on a larger and more global scale. PSCU’s ultimate vision is to create a community in which gender equality is a natural state, and women everywhere finally have the voice they rightfully deserve.
As the industry comes together to commemorate the 70th anniversary of ICU Day on Oct. 18, there could be no more fitting time to celebrate the growth of the Global Women’s Leadership Network and the exponential increase of its Sister Society chapters, and to look forward to a future that is increasingly bright for women in the credit union industry.