Credit unions, our time is now

Recently, Teri Kuehn was appointed the Chair of Community Financial Credit Union’s Board of Directors. I feel honored to serve Kuehn and the rest of our Board as we create joy and ignite Michiganders’ impossible dreams. Our entire team enthusiastically celebrated this milestone of being a credit union led by a female president & ceo and a female Board Chair. The fact that this remains a rare occurrence in the credit union industry is humbling.

As we hoot a “huzzah” for Community Financial leading the way, we celebrate even more success occurring across our industry, including recently at Bethpage Federal Credit Union and State Employees Credit Union. Credit unions see the importance of different voices at the highest level. More work must also be done. Research shows that in the United States, 35 percent of credit union board seats are held by women and just 30 percent of the top 50 credit unions by asset size are led by women.

Yesterday’s ninth publication by McKinsey of the “Women in the Workplace 2023” report by Field, Krivkovich, Kügele, Robinson, and Yee created in partnership with LeanIn.Org emphasizes both progress and how far we have to go. The piece highlights four myths and the corresponding realities we must overcome to see even more growth, outlined in the table below:

Myth Reality
Women are becoming less ambitious. Women are more ambitious than before the pandemic—and flexibility is fueling that ambition.
The biggest barrier to women’s advancement is the ‘glass ceiling.’ The ‘broken rung’ is the greatest obstacle women face on the path to senior leadership.
Microaggressions have a ‘micro’ impact. Microaggressions have a large and lasting impact on women.
It’s mostly women who want—and benefit from—flexible work. Men and women see flexibility as a ‘top 3’ employee benefit and critical to their company’s success.

Source: “Women in the Workplace 2023,” by Fields, et al., McKinsey & Company

This research is actionable. When leveraged, it might help leaders and organizations better understand the landscape and how to act since recommendations for next steps are included, such as “tracking outcomes for women’s representation, empowering managers to be effective people leaders, addressing microaggressions head-on, unlocking the full potential of flexible work, and fixing the broken rung, once and for all.”

The publication of this report collided with an opportunity I had to attend the Sievewright & Associates, an SRM Company, Strategic Leadership Forum this week. On the first day, Teresa Freeborn, leader and author of “Suits and Skirts: Game On! The Battle for Corporate Power,” shared with the group of credit union leaders a bit about her own experience of leadership and the possibilities that exist as we create an even brighter future for women. I appreciated Teresa’s perspective. She is unwilling to accept that the progress we’ve seen is enough. And I agree. We must be relentless in the pursuit of more. The resemblance of her remarks echoes the recommendations outlined in the McKinsey report.

Credit unions have a unique opportunity to lead even more robust outcomes for our members by leading change in the role women play within our space. Let’s use the building momentum and research to show other industries how well this can be done.

My daughter MacKenzie turns 13 on Sunday. As she races into her future, I’d love to see her possibilities grow through the change we create in the coming years. Imagine a world where more than 50 percent of the most influential and largest credit unions were led by women and even more women held senior-level executive positions. The differing perspectives, approaches, and experiences would make our vibrant industry even more dynamic. Credit unions, it’s our time to continue to lead the way. Let’s celebrate just how much change we have brought to life, use this research to manifest change in our organizations, and fuel the fire in our bellies to do even more collaboratively.

Tansley Stearns

Tansley Stearns

Tansley Stearns is the president & ceo at Community Financial Credit Union. “No” is not a word in Tansley’s vocabulary. If there is an opportunity to bolster Community Financial Credit ... Web: Details