Women's Leadership Group Is Challenged To Double Their Ranks

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WASHINGTON-During a breakfast meeting of the Global Women's Leadership Network here, the group's members were challenged to "double" the level of participation by 2012.

Brian Branch, COO of the World Council of Credit Unions, under whose auspices the GWLN operates, said it is the vision of the relatively new group to "provide women with opportunities to make a difference in their own lives, the lives of members and the lives of others."

WOCCU helped initiate the Network after seeing the number of women denied basic financial services in many parts of the developing world.

Meanwhile, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), who called herself an "unabashed supporter" of credit unions, spoke with some passion about how empowering and educating women can make critical differences in lives, especially in third world countries. Speier challenged the GWLN to double its membership when it hosts a breakfast again at the 2012 GAC. For the record, the 2011 meeting represented a doubling of the 2010 attendance.

"On a very small scale, sometimes we can have an impact in a very large way. Ninety-years ago in this country women did not have the right to vote," observed Speier. "That was not that long ago. Women were treated as chattel. Now women are the largest group of voters in the country, but only 17% of Congress is women. The United States ranks 72nd in the world in gender equity among 188 countries."

Speier noted that more women in the U.S. now graduate from college than men, and that two-thirds of those in graduate school are women. As a result, Speier said she is "worried" about where men are and why they are not going to college.

"My big message is to support each other. More often than not the success of a woman is because another woman recognized them," said Speier, who shared her own story of becoming a widow at age 44. "Become what I call a 'femtor.' Recognize talent in your midst."

Speier, who set a record for the longest period of time between when a person first ran for Congress until they were first elected-29 years-said it's "very important to stand up. Stand up locally. Stand up globally. If you sit silently you are giving your tacit agreement to whatever is going on around you. Make other women a part of the important mission you are about."

Also speaking to the Global Women's Leadership Network was NCUA Chairman Debbie Matz, who share her own concerns that there are 50 million 12-year-old girls who live in poverty in the world, and that the No. 1 reason for cause of death among girls ages 15 to 19 is complications due to pregnancy.

Matz also shared with the audience some details on the agency's new Office of Minority and Women Inclusion, which was mandated by the Dodd-Frank Act. "We are also charged with monitoring employment and diversity of the credit unions we regulate. Fortunately, we will not have to enforce, but we will monitor."

The Global Women's Leadership Network is sponsoring three "Engagement Programs" in other parts of the world during 2011. It has trips scheduled to Sri Lanka from June 13-19, Belarus from Sept. 3-10, and Kenya Oct. 29-Nov. 7. It also has a golf tournament fundraiser scheduled in conjunction with the World Council's World CU Conference in Scotland in July. For info: CUwomen.org.

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