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International Women Day is celebrated in credit union sector


09 Mar 18

8 March was International Women’s Day (IWD) celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. Credit unions in the UK and around the world are active in supporting the role of women and gender equality. 

One of the biggest social changes in recent decades has been women entering the workplace. More women are working now in cooperatives than ever before.  Social Enterprise Scotland recorded that 64% of Scotland’s social enterprises, including credit unions, are led by women compared to around 7% for FTSE 100 companies. Research carried out by ABCUL last year showed that 55% of credit unions in Great Britain are lead by a women. However, the sector continues to work to improve representation of women at board level, as credit unions continue to see more male members volunteer for boards.

In 2009, The World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) established the Global Women’s Leadership Network (GWLN) to address the credit union industry’s gender gap. A report by the World Council of Credit Unions and Filene Research Institute, found that women in the credit union industry are more likely to start out in lower level posts–and despite similar stated ambition–are less likely to achieve executive-level status. Over 2,000 women are now part of the GWLN which is the global industry’s only platform offering greater gender balance, particularly among leadership positions.

Last year’s at WOCCU conference In Vienna the “distinguished service award” was presented to The Global Women’s Leadership Network. This is the highest honour to be awarded by the World Council of Credit Unions, which is given because of outstanding contributions to international credit union development.

Susan Mitchell, Chair of the Network, accepted the award and said: “We are changing lives and making a measurable difference in the lives of women. This is a human initiative. We need all people of the world to come together as a co-operative movement.”

In 2016, HM Treasury established, The Women in Finance Charter to improve gender diversity in senior positions within the financial services sector. Credit unions were among the first signatories to the Charter, in which commits financial services firms to:

  • Link the remuneration packages of their executive teams to gender diversity targets.
  • Commit firms to set internal targets for gender diversity in their senior management, publish progress reports annually against these targets
  • To appoint a senior executive responsible for gender diversity and inclusion.

The first 72 firms to sign up to the Charter include London Capital Credit Union, South Manchester Credit Union and The Co-operative Credit Union.

South Manchester Credit Union Manager Sheenagh Young said: “Credit unions have a strong record in gender parity. Many credit unions have a female CEO and there is growing female representation on credit union Boards of Directors.”

Britain's credit unions have a strong track record of female leadership in board and managerial positions, and on IWD 8 March 2018, it was great to see credit unions not just in Great Britain, but all over the world raising awareness.

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