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Filene Identifies 5 Challenges for Women in CU Leadership
Tuesday, March 3, 2015 6:25 AM

A recent paper from the Filene Research Institute investigates the challenges women face as leaders within the credit union movement. "Five Challenges: Enhancing Women's Leadership in Credit Unions" uses organizational and social-psychological literature about women's advancement in the workplace to examine the specific factors that support or hinder women's leadership within credit unions.

The paper illustrates the results of a 76-question survey sent to credit union employees and board members across North America about the challenges women face in the industry.

The survey found that many small factors nibble away at career advancement. The five most pressing challenges are:

  • The pipeline problem: Women often start working for a credit union in lower-level roles and in departments that don't directly lead to the executive suites;
  • Leadership style and perception: Women seem slightly more likely across asset sizes to use authoritarian styles, but they also perceive themselves as having less power and influence than men;  
  • Leadership climate: Employees at credit unions with female CEOs perceive themselves differently and act differently than those at similar credit unions with a man in charge. At male-led credit unions, men believe their skills are significantly more valued. The same is true for women at female-led credit unions;  
  • Ambition and motivation: While male and female credit union employees are equally ambitious, mentors and sponsors often sort along gender lines, making it more difficult for women to find a hand up; and  
  • Family concerns: Neither men nor women report family as a career inhibitor, but at the senior level, men are much more likely than women to have children, implying a trade-off between career and family.