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Adhere to Your Femininity

Mais oui, ze French-or more precisely Societe Generale, a French bank-began offering a pink and gold credit card called "Pour Elle," complete with handbag insurance and handyman assistance. It vows to "simplify" women's lives and an article written about it quotes a bank spokesperson saying it targets "those who wish to adhere to their femininity."

Their clientele seems very hi-end so it might work for them but the very idea among commoners like me portrays women as helpless-one might even say hopeless. Women are influential cogs in the economy and marketing to a target audience can be good, but personally I am now finding it tough to keep lunch down. (I'm sorry, was that not ladylike?)

Women can be a powerful force in the workplace, too, and remain feminine. I'm not talking about the old days of low-cut blouses and tight skirts, but truth be told women can get away with a lot more than men in the wardrobe department. Look at attention-grabbing garb of someone like CO-OP's Sarah Canepa Bang. Not everyone can pull her style off but you know when she enters a room.

I couldn't get away with it but there are subtler ways of parting the pinstriped seas while adhering to your femininity. The thing about your professional femininity is it's how you define it and want to project it. Many times we do feel the pressure to conform in this man's world, whether to what the way they behave or the way they think (or we think they think) women should behave.

Women can and should assert themselves more. Women are less likely to negotiate for compensation and benefits, which can do great damage to your personal and financial well being over time. Know your priorities, whether they're financial or extra time off or other benefits, before entering the room, and don't leave until you're satisfied that they've all been addressed if not necessarily adopted.

Women are less apt to continue pushing an idea for a product or service or process after hearing ‘no' from on high. Pick your battles, but if you've done your research and know this will be beneficial to your business then wait a while and bring it up again. The worst that will likely happen is you'll be told no again. If you're idea is accepted and successful refer back to the last paragraph, but if you don't support a project you believe in, you won't have the opportunity at review time to say look what revenue or savings I've brought to this organization.

I've also heard the statistic from executive consultant Holly Herman (I don't recall the original source) that women won't apply for a job to move up a level unless they know they can already do 80% of it while men will apply for jobs they think they can handle 40% of. That's the kind of confidence women need to succeed and succeed even faster. Know the basics and quickly muddle your way through the rest until you know that, too.

Even something as simple as offering a firm handshake can go a long way (but do it femininely so you don't chip your nails). These behaviors aren't unfeminine. Make them your feminine, because we don't need our lives simplified with purse insurance. And, if you own a purse that needs insuring, 1) your life's already too complicated and 2) you can afford to hire your own handyman.

By Sarah Snell Cooke
Credit Union Times
Challenges Facing Women in Leadership Positions, CU Boards / Volunteers, Engaging the Next Generation of CU Members, Impact of Women in Society, Member Service, Networking

Men Are the Problem, er, I Mean Solution

Sarah Snell Cooke

Men—you know I love ‘em. Even married one once. They can be tyrannical and territorial or they can be fatherly and supportive.My headline was satirical. Men are absolutely part of the solution to gender diversity in the work place. They have to be because they rule a lot of this roost. Historically it was by design but I like to think that’s not the case with most male executives any more.Just like my headline though you’ll see a lot of books regarding advancement of female executives with titles like, The Rise of Women Has Turned Men Into Boys and The End of Men. It’s entirely the wrong attitude to present to truly accomplish diversity, and if you look beyond the titles you’ll see they’re sensationalized for marketing rather than actually representing feminazi dogma.Even if some men aren’t on board they need to be brought on board. We’re in this lopsided situation because a subset of people was excluded. What’s the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. We need men (see first line).Dragging over the fence sitters and opponents take business sense, so here are millions of reasons for equity among the executive ranks. According to a 2011 McKinsey study, women represented 37% of all jobs in 1970 and that figure climbed to nearly 48% by 2009, adding nearly 37 million women. McKinsey contends that without them, our economy would be 25% smaller. Additionally, the U.S. has about 76% of all women working versus 87% in Sweden. Even the outlying states only reach 84%, which suggests there’s room for growth, McKinsey contends, and adding 3-4% to the U.S. economy. Pull that down from the clouds and apply it to the credit union industry, and it’s still a substantial number.A greater portion of middle management women (31%) than entry-level (16%) aspires to the upper ranks so focus on these professionals first, McKinsey found. Mentor them or if you are one of them, find a mentor, male or female. Also, increasing that layer of women in middle management helps grow the upwardly mobile pool even further.An Oct. 31 column by American Banker Editor-at-Large Barbara A. Rehm followed the remarks of Irene Dorner, CEO of HSBC USA. Rehm quoted her as saying in her acceptance speech as the most powerful woman in banking, “Do more to create a level playing field for women…Do it because meritocracy is a step towards renewing our industry. Do it because there are a lot of women out there who can get us where we want to be. And do it because it’s right.”

Her words are great and her speech reportedly very inspiring, but think about how much more powerful it would be if a male executive had made that speech. Men must be part of the solution to gender equality.

Sarah Snell CookeSarah Snell Cooke

By Sarah Snell Cooke
Credit Union Times
Challenges Facing Women in Leadership Positions, CU Boards / Volunteers, Impact of Women in Society, Internal Operations, Networking

Teach Your Colleagues Well

As demographics and history progress, more female executives are growing into leadership roles Credit Union Times wanted to highlight them in various states of their career paths. In 2011, we launched our Women to Watch program to shine a spotlight on women who are making a difference in the credit union community and serve as role models for others. With that rise comes great responsibility. Up and coming female professionals need mentors and let’s face it: sometimes it’s easier for us (and often men, too) to ask questions and seek guidance from women. Women tend to be more attentive to others’ needs and better listeners. (My husband refuses to toss his cruddy old t-shirt that reads: She says I don’t listen, or something like that.) Whether it’s instinctual or a simply upbringing, it’s true. With 66% of women 18-34 rating career high on their list of priorities compared to men of the same age group at 59%, female mentors are becoming a hot commodity.Credit Union Times recently featured women professionals of the credit union support system at and in our Oct. 3 issue. These women, including the Global Women’s Leadership Network’s Sue Mitchell, CEO of Mitchell, Stankovic & Associates, are professionals to be admired and respected for a whole slew of reasons. When you read their personal philosophies, you see things like:

  • Be honest.
  • Be flexible.
  • Be the person you look up to.
  • Seek opportunities.
  • Be curious and creative.
  • Make a difference.
  • Do what’s right.

Demonstrating leadership isn’t rocket science and it’s not a women or men’s issue. These are human issues. But mentors can serve the important role of keeping others on track, steering them from burning a bridge in a temporary fit of anger, and guiding them through the gray areas.Not all women or men want to be in the corner office. Some prefer to be the best they can be at whatever their area of interest is. That’s great! It takes everyone working together—men and women, CFOs, IT and marketing directors, volunteers and professionals—and respecting and using everyone to their strengths while acknowledging our own weaknesses to operate a successful organization. Mentors can help bring that out in you execs.

Willingness to cooperate and collaborate and getting others to work together harmoniously is a great strength of women in general and perhaps why they’ve been more successful in the credit union community than other industries.


By Sarah Snell Cooke
Credit Union Times

Challenges Facing Women in Leadership Positions, Community Outreach, CU Boards / Volunteers, Engaging the Next Generation of CU Members, Impact of Women in Society, Internal Operations, Member Discussions, Networking

Thoughts on the Mobile Revolution

In the article, Designing for Women: The Mobile Challenge (, Christopher Burns, economic growth and agricultural development advisor of USAID, said  “Mobile phones are a real game changer when it comes to tackling global challenges around the world but if the design does not change, hundreds of millions of women risk being left out in this next mobile revolution. That is a risk we cannot afford to take.”

Burns conducted research in Egypt, India, Papua New Guinea and Uganda, that shows on average resource-poor women are 22% less likely to want a mobile phone because they don’t know how to use it.

Do your credit union members know how to access their financial information through their mobile phones? How can we, as credit unions, make sure no one is left behind in the mobile revolution?

Maybe we can use this research and work with members and offer a basic tutorial on how to access their accounts and other key phone functions. Perhaps tellers could help members on a case-by-case basis or classes could be offered on occasion?

As financial cooperatives we have the ability to shine while helping our members understand new technologies. Has anyone done outreach on how to make members more comfortable with technology? We’d love to hear your ideas!
Challenges Facing Women in Leadership Positions, Community Outreach, CU Boards / Volunteers, Engaging the Next Generation of CU Members, Facilitating Greater Access to CUs Worldwide, Impact of Women in Society, Marketing, Member Discussions, Member Service, Networking, Technology

Olivia Wilde Talks about Microfinance

I had the chance to watch the Daily Show with Jon Stewart recently, and the episode featured an interview with actress Olivia Wilde.  Although she was there to promote her new movie, she also talked about her recent trip to Kenya, which was inspired by the book Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.  While in Kenya she saw the work of microfinance organizations and women's groups that are fostering self-sustainability. You may recall that our Network Chair, Sue Mitchell, has referenced and recommended the book to us a few times over the last year or so.  The book does intrigue me, and I thought you might want to check out the video clip of her interview as well.  Here you go...
Challenges Facing Women in Leadership Positions, Community Outreach, Engaging the Next Generation of CU Members, Facilitating Greater Access to CUs Worldwide, Impact of Women in Society, Member Discussions, Networking

Making Cracks in the Glass Ceiling

The term glass ceiling was coined in the 1980s to illustrate women’s struggle to be seen as equals in senior executive positions. While that metaphor holds true today, fissures are appearing where they hadn’t been before. I’m confident that will continue as women climb the corporate ladder and expand their numbers in the marketplace. A 2007 study in the Journal of Organizational Structure, Communications and Conflict found that it certainly exists. The survey was conducted in 2003 and found three women sitting in the corner offices at Fortune 100 companies. This was up proportionally from just two in the Fortune 500 in 1996. Women comprise more than half of the population yet we occupy a meager 3% of the top spots and the most successful companies. Similarly, non-CEO female executives at the Fortune 100 accounted for 5.8% of executives in 2003, up from 2.6% of female officers at the Fortune 500 companies in 1997.However, an area where women (and the men, generally, who hire them) have made remarkable strides is compensation. Several studies have found, particularly at the upper echelons of the pay scale, the differences are nonexistent when it comes to compensation packages. For 2001-2003, according to the Journal article, female non-CEO execs earned a bit more in the median than their male counterparts with the mean reversing slightly. With a sample size of only three female CEOs, a statistical conclusion could not be reached for that set.The study concluded that the glass ceiling is certainly not shattered but a dramatic shift will occur over the next several years as women earn college degrees at twice the rate of men, and because the economy is no longer manufacturing based, which favored men.The glass ceiling is certainly still there but the more of us who chisel away at it the more quickly it will shatter completely. Or should I use a more appropriately feminine term than shatter? No, we need to annihilate it. Obliterate it!To be fair, until recent history, women have made other choices in life that conflicted with or interrupted their careers, such as education level, stereotypical gender roles and family. Even as you look up the corporate ladder, you’ll see most women are in stereotypical female roles, such as HR or marketing. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with those jobs; they’re great! But they tend not to lead to CEO positions, and that’s fine too. Do what you love and you’ll get what you define as your top spot every time.

If a big office is what you crave, it’s nice to know that with confident negotiation your contributions could be valued every bit as much as a man’s.

Sarah Snell Cook, Editor & Chief, Credit Union Times 

By Sarah Snell Cooke


Credit Union Times

Challenges Facing Women in Leadership Positions, Community Outreach, CU Boards / Volunteers, Engaging the Next Generation of CU Members, Events, Facilitating Greater Access to CUs Worldwide, Financial/Risk Management, Growing CU Market Share, Impact of Women in Society, Internal Operations, Marketing, Member Service, Networking, Member Discussions, Program Updates, Regulatory Issues, Technology

Play the Game So You Change it

I play USA Volleyball, and while we’re no Olympians most of us played in college—a few years back. We have a middle hitter who apologizes for everything. The ball could land 20 feet from her clearly in someone else’s area and immediately you hear, ‘I’m sorry,’ come out of her mouth. (Sometimes I yell at her for it, to which she yells back, ‘I’m sorry!’ We can do that with each other.)

The way women communicate in business, such as apologizing for everything, really hurts others’ perceptions of them. Apologize if something is truly your fault; that’s a sign of strength. Also have a plan for correcting the problem. When you apologize for everything, it demonstrates a general lack of confidence.

Also be sure to look people in the eyes (do blink, otherwise it’s creepy) and assert yourself when making requests. When you ask, ‘Would you maybe do this project, if you have the time?’ it not only shows a lack of confidence but it’s so mushy no one’s really sure what if anything is actually required of the employee. Being assertive doesn’t mean being impolite; it’s leadership.

The Male Factor by Shaunti Feldhahn is not a new book now but it provides interesting insights into the differences between male and female thinking and communication. What she found was not so much sexism as misunderstanding of each other.

At work, Feldhahn contends, men expect no excuses for not accomplishing a goal and you don’t ask why you’re working on something. But women like to know why they’re working on something, not because they’re questioning its value but rather so they understand its value to the business. We also might come up with a better or different way of getting at that point.

However, that’s not always how it’s perceived. Try something along the lines of, “Help me to understand…” I’ve used this tip to success.

Credit union consultant Holly Herman, who holds what she calls Woman Up! sessions, instructs that ‘no’ doesn’t always mean no when it comes to new ideas. Sometimes it’s not right now until we get more resources, so be sure to assert your ideas when you can support that they’re good ones.

Understanding the rules of communication in business is important to playing the game. One day in the not too distant future the women will be setting the rules.


Sarah Snell Cooke 

Sarah Snell Cooke
Credit Union Times

How to Efficiently Use Social Media

Social Media is a useful tool in dealing with communicating and attracting new credit union members. Your credit union might have a Facebook or a Twitter account or even both but are those very efficient? In a recent article, CU Journal's Aaron Passman brings up the important issue of how efficient is credit unions’ social media outreach. He gave the example of two credit unions –both members of the network- VanCity and Verity Credit Union, whose social media campaigns achieved to bring “members together for a specific purpose that not only created community but also furthered the respective CU’s messages”. Targeting your audience and analyze their expectations are two essential steps you will need to use if you want your social media strategy to be functional. Depending on what social media you choose to use, your members will have very different expectations. As a professional writer specializing on social media and marketing, David Murton recommends asking yourself 3 questions to enhance your social media outreach:

  1. What exactly are you trying to achieve?
  2. How much traffic/ content generation can you handle?
  3. What are the daily online habits of your target audience?

Making sure you have a clear message is an essential step to successful social media campaigns. Innovation is also important. Brent Dixon, from the Filene Research Institute, pointed out America First Credit Union’s use of customer reviews allowing its members to evaluate and therefore help improving and developing the credit union’s products.

Whether you choose Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or only a great website as a social media strategy, keep in mind that our mission is always to better serve people.

To read Aaron Passman’s article click here (access restricted to CU Journal members)

To read David Murton’s blog post click here

Upcoming Engagement Program in Querétaro, Mexico


thanks to Network Members Catherine Ford and Sue Mitchell's blog posts you had the chance to have some feedback about our engagement program in Ventura, CA.

If you'd like to participate in the next one in Querétaro, Mexico please note that it will now take place on October 7-13, 2012. For further details, visit the "Upcoming Events" section of the website.

We hope to see many of you there!

PS: Don't forget that we're still accepting registrations for this year Global Women's Leadership Forum in Gdańsk!

CU Boards / Volunteers, Events, Growing CU Market Share, Technology

Global Women's Leadership Network, Ventura Project Engagement

We are making a difference!  Global Women's Leadership Network had its first U.S. project engagement in Ventura, Calif. (USA).  The five-day session gave participants an opportunity to see World Council's outreach iPhone program in action.  This progressive mobile application allows the credit union to reach out to current and potential members at remote access points.  The participants visited farms, volunteered at community organizations, toured credit union facilities, had bike rides on the beach with the CEO to engage in discussions and formed lifelong friendships that reinforce that doing the right thing is also good business.  Here are just a few comments:

You can appreciate why I feel “I left my heart in Ventura,” although  I brought all of these shining  stars in my heart – as well as brought back with me some ideas on how to perhaps contribute to the success of SMCU serving the underserved, Barry’s culture, vision, passion and commitment.  I can’t wait to see the pictures and share the experience with our San Francisco “Sisterhood“ at our meeting in August.
- Connie Paniagua, San Mateo Credit Union, San Mateo, Calif. (USA)

We had a wonderful time on our trip.  I met Joe Schroeder, CEO, from VCCU, Brandi  Stankovic of Mitchell, Stankovic, and Associates, and Nicole Bice from World Council. All nice people.  Joe's credit union is really neat.  They know their membership and are working to make sure that they service them in every way possible.  WOCCU put on a very informative and well organized conference.  During our trip to the fields, we observed workers picking celery, which reminded me of going out on my grandfather's farm back home.  Edith from the credit union sets up for business in their break room.  She has programming on an iPhone so she can sign members up and make transactions. This was my first experience with a bilingual group, so it was very interesting to me to observe the interaction. Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to go!
- Donita Wendt, Ser Technology, Dallas, Texas (USA).

It was a great time, and I really enjoyed spending time with all these ladies.  It was good and made me feel more connected with GWLN and WOCCU.   I still have a heart for reaching the people in the fields, and I think we can find a way to do that, especially here in Santa Cruz. 
- Beth Carr, Santa Cruz Community Credit Union, Santa Cruz, Calif. (USA)

CU Boards / Volunteers, Events, Growing CU Market Share, Program Updates, Technology
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