2013 Global Women’s Leadership Forum Addresses Advancement in Credit Union Women Leadership

Sheryl WuDunn, Half the Sky co-author, supports women’s potential to further economic development

OTTAWA, CANADA (July 15, 2013) — More than 110 women credit union leaders from 12 countries gathered in Ottawa, Canada, yesterday for the 2013 Global Women’s Leadership Forum, held in conjunction with World Council of Credit Unions’ World Credit Union Conference, to discuss the advancement of credit union women leadership. Participants heard from keynote speaker Sheryl WuDunn, New York Times bestselling author of Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide and the first Asian-American Pulitzer Prize winner, about women’s potential to impact global development.

Sponsored by MasterCard Worldwide, WuDunn presented research from her book on the varying degrees of women’s oppression worldwide. In addition to women’s education and jobs, she said that microsavings can provide women’s economic empowerment, which is a key to solving gender inequity worldwide.

“There’s no silver bullet. We must try different strategies, and a lot of times what works is not always the sexiest,” WuDunn said.

WuDunn related her findings to the credit union movement during a panel discussion focused on the challenges women credit union leaders face. Teresa Freeborn, Xceed Financial Credit Union president and CEO, moderated the discussion, which included Patrice Pratt, Vancity Credit Union (Canada) director; Lucy Ito, California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues (USA) executive vice president and chief operating officer; Lisa Bonin, Servus Credit Union (Canada) corporate procurement specialist; and Katie Smigiel, CU*Answers (USA) vice president of organizational development.

The panel discussed recent research on inequalities in executive positions held by women throughout credit union systems worldwide. Their studies and personal experiences revealed that a balance of men and women in top decision-making positions can accelerate an organization’s economic success. Panelists suggested Network members could make a difference by raising awareness on the importance and benefits of women leadership at their own credit unions, especially among those in upper management.

“Women aren’t the problem. They are the solution,” WuDunn said.

The Network announced at the forum that it is partnering with Filene Research Institute this year to conduct a study that identifies obstacles to leadership that women face in the credit union industry worldwide.

Prior to the forum, Roxanne Ostrem, Ventura County Credit Union (Calif., USA) director, was honored with the Global Women’s Leadership Network’s 2013 Athena Award Saturday evening at the Global Women’s Leadership Network reception. The annual award is named for the Greek goddess of reason, intelligence, arts and agriculture, and honors outstanding achievement in support of credit union development, particularly as it relates to credit union women’s leadership development worldwide. Ostrem has been a credit union advocate for more than 20 years and is a founding member of the Global Women’s Leadership Network. She has tirelessly volunteered her time to changing the lives of Hispanic field workers in her community by leading the “Boots in the Dirt” campaign with World Council, in which Ventura County Credit Union staff delivers financial services to field workers using iPhone technology.

The Global Women’s Leadership Network meets annually in conjunction with the World Credit Union Conference. More than 2,000 people from 61 countries are attending the World Credit Union Conference this week in Ottawa, Canada, where they are learning from experts in mobile banking, social media and corporate leadership, visiting local credit unions and networking with international peers at a variety of special events. The conference ends July 17 with World Council’s annual awards ceremony and closing night reception at the Canadian Museum of Civilization.

Follow conference activities, including daily event photos, on World Council’s Facebook and Twitter pages at and using #WCUC2013.

World Council of Credit Unions is the global trade association and development agency for credit unions. World Council promotes the sustainable development of credit unions and other financial cooperatives around the world to empower people through access to high quality and affordable financial services. World Council advocates on behalf of the global credit union system before international organizations and works with national governments to improve legislation and regulation. Its technical assistance programs introduce new tools and technologies to strengthen credit unions’ financial performance and increase their outreach.

World Council has implemented more than 290 technical assistance programs in 71 countries. Worldwide, 56,000 credit unions in 101 countries serve 200 million people. Learn more about World Council’s impact around the world at

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