Let’s talk about the status of gender diversity on credit union boards.

It’s not new that females, who represent half of credit union membership nationwide, continue to be underrepresented in the boardroom. It is important to distinguish between representation and parity. Female representation on boards became a boardroom issue in the 1980s when board governance studies and literature gave rise to board governance reforms. For many boards this representation has meant one or two females. Forty years later this female representation model is still the standard for many, if not most, credit union boards. For other boards, there may be balanced or no female representation.

Within the past decade this old model of little-to-no female representation on boards has started evolving toward a new paradigm rooted in diversity. The shift to gender parity, with a coequality of respected voices on boards, is still new to many boards. Even with this diversity awareness, valuable new data have shown the needle moving toward gender balance at a glacier pace – inching up a little – until, if projections hold true, the earliest we can expect an increase in gender representation on credit union boards is 2030. For gender parity the projection is 2050.

The U.S. is not a global leader in gender equal board representation. The influx of global research findings about gender diversity on (all types of institutional) boards in the last decade adds to our local and global understanding about the business case and the public support for gender equal representation in boardrooms. The good news is that in 2020, support for U.S. credit union and corporate institution Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion learning and action plans is gaining momentum. The National Credit Union Administration, for example, discussed Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts and possible regulatory changes at CUNA’s 2020 Governmental Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C.

The boardroom gap of female representation in our boardrooms can be narrowed and closed. Implementing successful strategies to achieve gender coequal boards varies according to each board and organization’s unique culture and leadership style.

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