Today is International Women’s Day, a time to celebrate women’s achievements and this year’s theme #BalanceforBetter is aimed at raising awareness against bias. What does it mean to forge a more gender-balanced world?
For one, it starts with ensuring equal opportunity, access and support for all individuals. According to a World Economic Forum report, women make up less than 15 percent of senior leadership positions across the financial services industry. However, in the credit union industry (CO-OP included) that percentage is a little over 50 percent.
While our industry continues to lead the charge, the question we should ask ourselves is: how do we continue to advocate diversity, equity and inclusion within our community and within financial services? How can we promote #BalanceforBetter – in service to members, strengthening our organizations and ensuring that all voices are heard and that all talents, rights and aspirations are recognized and respected?
Perspectives on International Women’s Day
We asked female leaders across the CO-OP organization for their insights. Here’s what they had to say:
“The future of leadership really isn’t female or male; it’s human,” said Samantha Paxson, Chief Experience Officer. “Human leadership is connected leadership, which has never been more vital because of the transformation of business. By working towards a leadership culture of human-first behaviors, businesses run better.”
And the data backs this up, she adds. “For companies that have already ‘Human Upped’ their leadership, they’re leading the charge. And for those that want to be part of this revolution but don’t know where to start, they might get some insight by asking the female leaders on staff what they think.”
“Having a balanced workforce brings fresh perspectives and also provides inspiration and motivation for up and coming future leaders,” said Tiffany Doty, VP, Southwest Division Executive. “In fact one of the factors that drew me to CO-OP and the credit union industry 10 years ago was the number of women in leadership positions.”
Veronica Desrosiers, Vice President, Enterprise Risk Management, advises female professionals to take initiative and pursue opportunities – even if they appear a bit out of reach.
“I recently read an article that indicated that ‘men apply for a job/promotion when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women will apply for or seek a promotion only if they meet 100% of them,’” she said. “This statement resonated with me in a disturbing kind of way. My advice to aspiring female leaders is simple – be confident and go for it!”
For Robyn Dennis, Employee Engagement Manager, it is important for organizations to promote balance in the workplace – not by gender alone, but by overall diversity, equity and inclusion.
“The workforce of the future is expecting this,” she says. “Organizations today are more diverse than ever and truly benefit when they bring a mix of differences and similarities to the discussion.”
Jackie Scheuerlein, VP, Relationship Management, agrees, adding that “balancing the workforce brings a variety of perspectives and backgrounds to any given situation.”
But, the goal of balance should not necessarily be to increase the sheer number of women in leadership roles, emphasizes Gail Tofil, VP, Client and Member Experience. “But rather to ensure that the pool of candidates is inclusive of ALL exceptional talent,” she said. “The right women – or men – in leadership bring emotional intelligence, self-awareness, horizontal ‘big-picture’ critical thinking, and keen business acumen, with an authenticity shown to impact things like employee engagement and client satisfaction.”
Balance Begins with Empathy
And while innovation is best achieved when discussions are deep, diverse and far-reaching, Tammy Snyder, SVP, Contact Center Services, cites the ability to look past gender and race and see others as human beings as pivotal to a healthy, vibrant corporate culture.
“We all need to celebrate each other’s successes and take a few minutes out of our busy days to recognize what others are going through,” she said. “Positively acknowledging others as they receive a promotion or other recognition – or sending a card or note if they are experiencing a hardship – takes only a few minutes but makes a noticeable difference in their day.”
As employees and leaders, we should also strive to deliver solutions to enhance individual effectiveness in the workplace, adds Cheryl Middleton Jones, Chief People Officer. “We all need to curate our lives to focus on what is important at work and at home. The goal is to be the employees, caregivers and people we want to be,” she said. “Work-life balance is an often-used phrase, but I prefer to think of it as ‘work-life harmony’, where in this digitally always accessible world we find our harmony between work and family priorities. “
“Lead by example every day and every time – even when no one is watching,” adds BJ Brisbois, SVP – Sales Operations.
While gender equity should define everyone’s experience in the workplace – we also deserve an equal opportunity to disconnect.
“Make time for the important things both work-related, family and personal. It is a juggle, but when you can keep yourself centered on doing the right things at the right time it all works out,” says Yvonne Stelpflug, VP, Credit Products.
“Balance is about finding time for yourself – whether it be reading, exercising, etc.,” said Pam Brodsack, Chief Technology Officer. “Making time to take care of yourself keeps you grounded, which allows you to give your best to others at work and at home.”
Happy International Women’s Day – here’s to making our industry (and the world) more balanced, supportive and inclusive!