Gender Parity In The Credit Union Industry

As calls for gender parity grow louder, the credit union industry has already made large strides.


In early July, U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) sat down with Adama Iwu, Visa’s senior director of global government relations, for a difficult but important conversation.

Speier, one of the 150 “Fearless Women” in the world according to Newsweek, and Iwu, a 2017 TIME Person of the Year, talked at an event held during Visa’s DC Innovation Center pop-up about what it’s like to be a woman in leadership and the role of diversity and inclusion across all sectors of business.

Both leaders have spent a large portion of their careers advocating for women’s rights in corporate America and in the U.S. government. For example, in November 2017, Speier sponsored the Member and Employee Training and Oversight On Congress Act, or the ME TOO Congress Act, to reform the procedures for investigating and resolving sexual harassment allegations, among other protections.



That’s one problem being addressed within Congress. Elsewhere, according to a study conducted by the National Women’s Law Center, a woman makes $430,480 less than a male counterpart over the course of a 40-year career. In other words, the average woman will need to work 51 years to make what an average man earns in 40 years. The gender pay gap is present across all occupations, but it is largest within the legal, tech, and business fields (see chart below).

In some occupations, the difference in median earning between a man and a woman is only a few thousand dollars. In the legal field, the gap can be as wide as $57,000 a year. Source: 2016 U.S. Census American Consumer Survey.

*Assumptions made on gender through cultural association with first name. If you see a name incorrectly categorized, please contact Callahan & Associates.

Comparatively, the credit union industry has a nearly even distribution of male and female CEOs, with more female CEOs than male*. When ran the numbers in "Put Your Data Where Your Mouth Is" in September 2017, 51.4% of credit union CEOs were female. Nearly a year later, that percentage has increased to 52.1%.

But female leadership at credit unions is evident outside the corner office, too. In 2015, Colleen Browne became the chair of the board of CommunityAmerica Credit Union. She joined CEO Lisa Ginter at the highest levels of leadership at the Midwest cooperative. 

Among Fortune 500 companies, the representation of women doesn’t fare as well. As of June 2018, 24 Fortune 500 CEOs — or 4.8% — were women. For every male Fortune 500 CEO, there were 0.05 female CEOs. This number has decreased 25% over the past year and doesn’t look as if it will rebound soon.

PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi announced this summer that she is stepping down after 12 years as CEO, and 24 years at the company. She'll be handing the reigns over to her male colleague, Ramon Laguarta. Nooyi’s departure comes after several high-profile female CEOs —  including Marissa Mayer at Yahoo, Irene Rosenfeld at Modelez, and Meg Whitman at Hewlett Packard — announced they were stepping down. Their successors will all be men.

In terms of financial institution and company size, women manage 19.7% of total assets within the credit unin industry, whereas women leading Fortune 500 companies represent 6.3% of total revenue. Using the chart below, compare and contrast the credit union industry with Fortune 500 companies.

How to use the Tableau Viz:

  • Select whether you want to look at the credit union industry or Fortune 500 companies by clicking at the top.
  • In the bubble chart, hover over the names to see how many CEOs have that name, and the combined total asset/revenue size of the institution.

The credit union industry has a pretty even distribution of male and female CEOs, but in terms of total assets, there is still progress to be made.

But gender representation isn’t just a cultural strategy, it pays dividends, too.

According to a study on the S&P Composite 1500, companies with high numbers of women overall perform better in strategic planning and problem solving, and companies with a high number of women in management exhibit higher levels of innovation. A report from the Peterson Institute found that a company’s net profits could increase by as much as 6% from having a board of directors composed of at least 30% women. And according to The Lehman Sisters Hypothesis, published in 2014 by The Cambridge Journal of Economics, gender differences played a role in the behavioral drivers behind the 2007-2008 financial crisis.

The study focused on gender differences along three dimensions of financial behavior:

  • Risk aversion and response to uncertainty: Women faced with increasing levels of risk, tend to “perform better than men because they take lower risks or take more time to respond to increasing uncertainty than men do.”
  • Ethics and moral attitudes: Women’s strategies are more dependent on the context they find themselves in than men’s strategies, suggesting that women’s reasoning in complex situation is more contextual than men’s.
  • Leadership: Gender stereotypes about female managers’ capacities are stronger than the actual rating of female managers’ characteristics and performance.

According to the study, increasing gender diversity in company management will reduce some of the behavioral drivers that underpinned the financial crisis.

The issue of gender inequality in the workplace is not new, so why is change slow? It isn’t necessarily that businesses don’t want to solve gender inequality.

According to a recent Ernst & Young report, there are four disconnects holding back gender parity:

  • Reality disconnect: People assume that the problem is solved, or at least almost solved.
  • Data disconnect: Companies do not measure their progress to gender parity.
  • Pipeline disconnect: There are not enough pipelines for future female leaders.
  • Perception and perspective disconnect: Males and females view the problem of gender parity differently.

As gender inequality come to the forefront of companies nationwide, credit unions have made strides in achieving parity within their own ranks, but there’s still room to grow. Read here to learn more about that.

Fact Check Us!

Callahan wants ensure we have every credit union's leadership team correctly identified in our system. Please verify your data.

Verify Your Data


Aug. 13, 2018


  • “a company’s net profits could increase by as much as 6% from having a board of directors composed of at least 30% women” Correlation does not prove causation. A valuable lesson from most people's freshman year of college, that most then go on to forgot. Could it be that larger companies with higher earnings are also higher profile, and tend to proactively seek female directors in order to avoid negative publicity, or EEOC lawsuits, or "disparate impact" lawsuits? That's not to say that the female directors are not qualified - just that perhaps they are sometimes a result of the higher earnings, rather than higher earnings being a result of female directors.
  • Thank you for your thorough reply, Dan. This is obviously a topic that you feel strongly about. The argument you outline would logically explain a wage gap. However, even studies that have controlled for things like hours worked, specialties within a profession, and professional experience have found a gap in pay between men and women. All this aside, a point I wanted to underscore (but perhaps lost) was that credit union leadership at the CEO level is nearly evenly distributed between men and women. That’s not the case in a lot of other industries. Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment. I appreciate hearing a perspective that challenges my argument.
    Maya Neuman
  • (continued from prior post) 3. Years of experience. Women are far more likely to take time away from their careers to start families. Not just 3 months away for maternity leave, but 5 years away until the child starts kindergarten. Maybe more years away if she has more children during those 5 years and waits for them to enter kindergarten. If Mom is in a technical field and takes 5 years off, her skills will be out of date and her subsequent earnings will suffer. If Mom is in any kind of sales role where the salesperson needs to build up a client base, the clients will have left during those 5 years and she will have to start all over again. We can question why women disproportionately take up the child-rearing role, but really that is a question that every family has to answer for itself, based on what is best for that family, itself. 4. Women are more likely to accept a salary offer whereas men are more likely to try to negotiate a higher salary. Most employers don't just give away money to employees who are not asking for it. When the "pay gap" is controlled for the 4 variables above, it goes from 76 cents on the dollar to 96 cents on the dollar. Still significant, yes. But far less alarming. And there may very well be other variables that explain the remaining 4% gap. The gender pay gap is a myth. It was discredited nearly 40 years ago. But acknowledging and accepting the underlying facts won't advance anybody's agenda, so its debunking keeps being swept under the rug.
  • Women earn something like 76 cents for every dollar that men earn, right? But those earnings are broad U.S. population averages - basically the average American man earns X, and the average American woman earns 76% of X. The vast majority of the pay gap can be explained by: 1. Hours worked. I don't recall the exact numbers, but the average man works somewhere around 44 hours per week while the average woman works somewhere around 37 hours per week. (Remember, the earnings are calculated on broad population averages, so they include a lot of part-time workers who tend to bring the average down.) All else being equal, it seems entirely reasonable for a 44-hour-per-week worker to earn more per year than a 37-hour-per-week worker. 2. Choice of profession. Men and women do not choose the same careers in the same proportions. Men are far more likely, for example, to work in the building trades. (And are also more likely to die on the job. I don't see any women asking for equality in that category.) Pay gaps within professions are not as wide as the pay gap in the economy as a whole. But when women tend to pursue lower-paid fields and men tend to pursue higher-paid fields, you would end up with an economy-wide pay gap even if career-specific pay gaps were nonexistent. 2a. Even within professions, there are different specialties. That is, there are different kinds of doctors, with different demands and different compensation. The same goes for lawyers. In fact, I see that your chart groups all "healthcare practitioners" in the same category. So presumably it includes both MDs and CNAs - how realistic is it to compare MD earnings to CNA earnings? (to be continued in another comment - I've reached the character limit)