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CU on International Women's Day
In honor of International Women's Day, Credit Union Journal has collected some of its recent coverage on women in the credit union movement, including looking back at profiles of Wegner Award winners and revisiting some memorable entries in our "Women in Tech" series. For more on how women are making an impact in credit union land, click ahead to the next slide.
It could be argued that few have done as much to advance women in the worldwide credit union movement as Susan Mitchell. The head of CU consulting firm Mitchell, Stankovic & Associates, she's also the founding chair of the Global Women's Leadership Network. A 2018 Wegner Award winner, Mitchell was recognized at this year's CUNA GAC for a history of creating empowerment and opportunities for women throughout the industry.
Maria Martinez, CEO of Border FCU, has spent her career working to put in place programs that can benefit underserved consumers. What's more, those efforts often have a major impact to residents on either side of the Mexican-American border.
As a former chairwoman of the Texas/Mexico Credit Union Relationship Committee (now called the Cornerstone Credit Union League’s International Relationship Committee), Martinez helped create a partnership with the Mexican credit union movement called Caja Popular Mexicana. CPM opens a dialogue between Texan and Mexican credit unions to share ideas and solutions and was awarded the Herb Wegner Award in 2006.
Adele Glenn grew up wanting to be an astronaut, but she found her place in the credit union movement. Still, it took a while before she landed there.
Entering the tech space in 1998, Glenn said some of her early experiences were less than ideal. During her first tech conference, for instance, she realized some of the challenges that go along with being a woman in the technology field. Glenn joined a credit union after moving to California when she was running her own event-planning business. Her career trajectory changed one day as she was depositing a check at the credit union that required an override from the branch manager.
Michigan State University Federal Credit Union CIO Samantha Amburgey, seated middle, in a brainstorming session with team members Meredith Crowl, assistant vice president of business solutions and helpdesk (seated left), and Bruce Greenway, programming and core operations manager.
A decade ago when Amburgey was a call center specialist at the credit union, she took a volunteer position with the American Red Cross. That experience, she said, was the first step on her journey to becoming a technology executive.
“I was given the opportunity to do an internship in the technology support services division assisting with building webpages for American Red Cross’s intranet and generally learning about their technology systems,” said Amburgey, who now serves as chief information officer for Michigan State University Federal Credit Union.
Catherine Rando came to credit unions late in her career. She started out in Silicon Valley, working in various capacities at tech startups, pharmaceutical firms and more starting in the 1980s.
“I see a lot of advantages to the credit union industry, including, of course, the philosophy of helping each other and working together, which I have never seen in any other industry,” she said.
In the early 1990s, long before entering the CU movement, Rando was working to redefine the possibilities of women working in Silicon Valley when she earned an executive position and a corner office.
“I got my corner office when I was on maternity leave, so to come back from maternity leave and not only have your job, but also your promotion and the corner office was a really big deal then,” she recalled.
When Pam Brodsack graduated from the University of Northern Iowa in 1994, she was the only female student with a degree in management of information systems. And while women are still the minority in the tech sector today – and particularly at credit unions – it’s safe to say things have changed in the last two decades.
Today Brodsack is senior vice president at CO-OP Financial Services, having joined the firm through CO-OP's 2017 acquisition of payment services provider TMG.
When asked in 2017 what differentiates the credit union industry from the other industries she has worked in, Brodsack responded: “It’s conservative.” In her view, many credit unions are “lagging behind” when it comes to technology and seamless integration of disparate systems.
“It’s frustrating to see legacy tech, such as core systems still on mainframe, standing in the way of API integration and other exponential technologies,” she said. “Credit unions need a better foundation and standardization so evolving, adapting – even performing an update – doesn’t become too costly to deploy.”
Cynthia Schroeder has spent 40 years in the credit union movement, starting as a teller when she was a teenager all the way up to today's role as chief information and innovation officer at Visions Federal Credit Union. In spite of all the technological changes in that time, however, one thing she says hasn't changed is the importance of collaboration and mentorship.
The credit union movement has proven to be a place where women can advance to some of the highest levels. But there's a catch: according to a 2017 report from the Filene Research Institute, while women make up 53 percent of credit union CEOs, they are most commonly found at credit unions with less than $50 million in assets – in other words, the sort of institution more likely to be struggling to make a profit and more likely to be absorbed in mergers.
Still, there are some things to be optimistic about. Women make up 70 percent of the industry's overall workforce, and the number of women in positions of power within the movement continues to rise.
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