TACOMA, Wash.–Credit unions gathered here were given an update on the big progress that’s been made by the Global Women’s Leadership Network, with an organizer making clear it’s about a lot more than women.
“What we need to do to sustain and grow our credit unions, and we believe a significant part of that ties to our diversity,” said Susan Mitchell, CEO of Mitchell Stankovic & Associates, and
founding chair of Global Women’s Leadership Network.
Mitchell and several other people affiliated with GWLN made clear that the group is meant to be much more than just a networking group for women, and instead designed to have an impactful difference.
The Global Women’s Leadership Network was founded in 2009 with its first forum held under the umbrella of the World Council of Credit Unions, which remains the parent organization. But in seeking ways to provide “measurable difference,” Mitchell said she recognized something else was needed, and that was a local effort. To that end, in 2012 it launched its Sister Societies, which are also tied to sister cities.
The vision “for the Global Women’s Leadership Network is to provide women with the opportunity and resources to make a measurable difference in the lives of each other, in the lives of credit union members and their communities.”
How that difference can be made can be seen in statistics from around the world, Mitchell said, noting there are 2.5 billion people globally who do not have a safe place to save or take out loans. She added that women are 20% less likely than men to have a formal financial account, and in developing countries, just 37% of women have accounts, compared to 46% of men.
Globally, Mitchell said women make up 44% of all CU members, 27% of board members, but comprise just 15% of CEOs. Mitchell added that in the U.S. at credit unions of more than $1 billion in assets, approximately 15% of CEOs are female.
What is unique to credit unions, said Mitchell, is that CU leaders, volunteers and business partners are all helping people to help themselves. “Without each other, we can’t support initiatives,” she said. “It really comes down to how can we bring women and our emerging leaders into our credit union community.”
There are also some very practical reasons for credit unions to pay better attention to women, as they are the primary influencers of financial decisions, she said. Mitchell cited data showing women account for 85% of all consumer purchases, including:
- 91% of new homes
- 66% of PCs
- 92% of vacations
- 80% of healthcare
- 65% pf new cars
- 89% pf bank accounts
- 92% of food
“People say, ‘That’s a women’s thing,’ and it is, but it’s also a consumer thing, and understanding the relevance of that is critical going forward,” said Mitchell. “Social mission is also credit union differentiator. We need to understand that philosophy counts.”
Today, the GWLN has grown to 2,600 members with 35 chapters in the U.S. and a total of 72 chapters around the world. In November it will introduce a GWLN app, which has been underwritten and developed by Elevations Credit Union in Colorado.
According to Mitchell, the Global Women’s Leadership Network’s strategies are:
- Benchmark current position—understand the issues
- Determine real obstacles within your area, your community and your credit union
- Engage men in the movement.
- Raise visibility and consumer awareness
- Increase women’s access to financial services
- Focus on diversity within your CU volunteers
- Succession planning, mentor and develop talent
- Expand participation within your credit union and sister society.
For more information, go to www.CUWomen.org