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Women in Leadership: Obstacles and Opportunities

Despite the growing presence of women in leadership roles at financial institutions across the United States and around the world, there is still significant opportunity for credit unions to realize the promise of female leadership. This report seeks to clarify how credit unions can encourage and support women’s ascension to leadership positions.

  • Melissa C. Thomas-Hunt Associate Professor of Business Administration at the Darden School of Business at University of Virginia
  • Mahak Nagpal BRAD Lab Manager at the Darden School of Business at University of Virginia

Executive Summary

Since its publication in 2013, Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In has been the touch-stone of professional equality for women. It preaches empowerment and hard work and promises collective support, through, for those who want women to succeed. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, although critics argue that it does not go far enough to address fundamental gender disparities by way of collective action or public policies. Regardless of which view you hold, the statistics about women in the workplace in North America, and especially around the world, show uneven progress.

Around the world, women’s wages represent between 70% and 90% of men’s, even less in some Asian and Latin American countries. And women around the world often enjoy fewer legal protections than men.1 In the United States, women on average earned about 80% of what men earned in 2012.2 The causes of income disparity and professional advancement are complex, and compensation for women in the United States is catch-ing up to that of men, especially among the most educated. But systematic challenges—personal, professional, and cultural—remain for women who want to earn more, do more, and lead organizations.