Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?
Kudos to the credit union community is more gender diverse than many industries. Filene Research Institute released a study, Women in Leadership: Obstacles and Opportunities, earlier this year, which states that two-thirds of CEOs at credit union with less than $50 million in assets are women. However, in the $100 million to $500 million range, the figure is only 20%, and at more than $500 million, the stat is just one in eight credit union CEOs are women. Globally, male CEOs dominate credit unions of all sizes. Then there’s this directly from the April report: Women comprised only 41% of credit union senior staff in 2012 despite making up 70% of the credit union workforce in the U.S.
The reasons for this vary. Certainly many women make legitimate decisions on the home front that they feel they can’t or don’t want to balance with a career. Filene’s April 2014 study noted that fewer women aspire to senior management. But it also found that employers nudge men and women in stereotypical directions that lead women to areas of the business that are not considered senior management track departments. For example, the head of HR is typically considered an “appropriate” role for women. Or marketing (which should be considered much more important than it generally is, but that’s another discussion).
What perpetuates the stereotyping? Society? Some basic evolutionary instinct? Whatever the cause, it needs to end. The statistics don’t need to move closer to 50-50 out of a sense of fairness. Diversification is not an equal rights issue. It’s a business continuity issue. Continuity in the sense of prosperity and the fact that there will not be enough qualified Gen X men to fill the spots vacated by those who will be retiring over the next decade. According to a University of California-Davis report, among the 400 public companies in California, the top 34 firms with the greatest gender diversity at the senior management level earned three times more revenue and 50% higher profit than the average company in the study.
In order to move toward greater equality and prosperity, we must acknowledge and educate. Part 2 of Filene’s research series is coming out next month, Credit Union Women in Leadership International Research Series Part 2: Attributes and Challenges. Filene is hosting a colloquium to discuss the results of the next survey on June 19. As of this writing the event had 68 registered attendees, only four of who are men and one is a professor at the University of Southern California where the event will be held. Go West!
Women’s issues are not just women’s issues. They are your business issues, your daughters’ and your wives’ life and career issues. It can be uncomfortable for men to address the issue of gender. I applaud the men at Filene like Mark Meyer and Ben Rogers for tackling this issue. Some male executives might be afraid of saying the wrong thing so they bury their heads in the sand, but Filene and the handful of men attending their colloquium are lassoing this issue that is bucking just under the surface to obtain a better grip on the future of the workplace, leadership and how it can improve credit unions.
“If you’re not aware of what the data says, then it’s easy to put it aside,” Rogers explained of Filene’s research. If it’s not in your life experience, it’s easier to turn a blind eye. True leaders read the landscape, saddle up and ride that pony—not off into the sunset but into the sunlight. Do you have the spurs?
By Sarah Snell Cooke, publisher/editor-in-chief of CU Times
Challenges Facing Women in Leadership Positions, Engaging the Next Generation of CU Members, Impact of Women in Society