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Data to drive new gender strategy for global women’s leadership network

WASHINGTON, D.C, March 13, 2024 —Global Women’s Leadership Network [GWLN] recently unveiled initial findings from the first set of research data that will go toward building a new gender strategy during its annual luncheon at America’s Credit Unions’ 2024 Governmental Affairs Conference [GAC].

Launched by World Council of Credit Unions in 2009 and currently part of Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions [WFCU], GWLN works toward narrowing inequality gaps by mentoring talent and fostering professional development that allows more women to assume leadership roles in the credit union industry.

Sophie Romana, a gender consultant with Althae Strategy, presented data derived from survey results provided by hundreds of GWLN stakeholders, including members and Sister Society leaders.

“You guys are awesome. You are doing the work that everybody loves. We haven’t heard anybody in the interviews saying that GWLN does not bring value to its members,” said Romana. “You built something that has immense value, and the question we heard most in our interviews is, ‘how can we leverage and catalyze this network to go to the next step?’ So, as we close a 15-year window, we open a new one and open new opportunities for the network.”

Survey respondents also identified areas they would like to see more of a focus on moving forward, including the need for more structured mentoring, as well as more opportunities to mentor women in emerging markets.

Interviews with 23 credit union leaders, WOCCU and WFCU Board Directors and staff, and leaders of credit union service organizations revealed a consensus that there is an opportunity for GWLN to emerge as a global authority in inclusive leadership by: Expanding GWLN’s mission and updating the structure of Sister Societies to welcome participation from all genders; positioning GWLN as an industry leader in research and data on gender and leadership; developing data-driven programmes and initiatives to catalyze GWLN, and providing training and certifications.

For the next step in developing the overall gender strategy, Romana directed those in attendance to answer a three-question survey asking what the specific focus areas of the strategy should be, and how its success can be measured.

“Within this network, there is a reservoir of men and women who are willing to roll up their sleeves and help build the next phase of the network and be very creative about it,” said Romana. “And I need your help. Because all those topics I shared with you, they’re going to require resources, time and engagement.”

Celebrating 15 years of GWLN

Sponsored by PSCU/Coop Solutions, the annual GWLN Luncheon at GAC also featured a look back at the massive growth of the organization over its first 15 years.

During that time, GWLN has engaged more than 6,000 individuals from 90 countries, supported 100 scholarship recipients, and launched more than 160 Sister Societies to advance women in leadership.

“Your support helps a lot of different things in this program. It isn’t just about elevating all women, it’s about elevating communities. So, thank you again,” said GWLN Director Eleni Giakoumopoulos.

Susan Mitchell, who was one of the members of the original WOCCU committee that founded GWLN, encouraged more credit union industry professionals to support the program financially over the next 15 years.

“And what does that do for Global Women? It allows them to create and build resources,” said Mitchell. “So, think ahead and make commitments out at least three years.”

Still work to do

Attendees also learned about the need for GWLN to still do more, after hearing how women still lag behind men in credit unions and the financial services industry as a whole.

Gail Remy-Rajkumar, leader of the Trinidad and Tobago Sister Society, illustrated the leadership gap facing women working at the 129 credit unions in her country.

“The share of women working there is 48 percent to 52 percent of men. That’s not bad. What is bad is that, in terms of either the President or the Vice-President, it’s just 2 percent of women. So, we still have a long way to go,” said Remy-Rajkumar.

And Trinidad and Tobago’s credit unions are not an outlier. External data presented by Romana showed women comprise less than 20 percent of all C-Suite positions in the financial services industry worldwide.

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