Ursula Heimann Gabriela Zapata Women in Leadership Colloquium Issues in Mexico USC 19 June 2014
What did we want to find out? • Their career path • How did they rise up to a leadership position in their credit union? • Women as leaders • in Mexican credit unions • Obstacles faced • What are important impediments to their career development in credit unions? • Supportive actions • Which actions can be taken to foster women leaders?
Who did we obtain information from? How? 31 • Credit unions • Data-based census • of Mexican credit unions working with WOCCU 18 • CEOs & board members • 10 men + 8 women • Structured questionnaire for in-depth interviews Mid to high-level employees & board members 110 men + 106 women 216 • Survey questionnaire
The 31 credit unions & their boards • 10 • >MXN$500 M* in assets • Led by a woman • 1 • 8 • Women-led (25.8%) • >50,000 members • 6 • 1 • Led by a woman • 1 • 0 women in leadership positions • 29 • Boards have women • 73 • Women in administrative boards but only… • 4 • …are chaired by women • * ≈ USD$40 M
Three broad patters of women’s participation in leadership positions • Fairly homogenous (women/men) • Very high female participation in leadership • High in administrative positions; low in leadership positions • The larger the credit union the more likely the CEO and/or administrative board chair is a man. • Women mostly participate in the leadership of smaller and sometimes mid-sized credit unions, and less so in larger ones
Chance & choice play a role in pursuing a career path • Many CEOs got to their positions by chance rather than choice • Women’s self esteem may influence their choice to pursue a leadership career path
INSIGHTS: Issues that enhance or limit women’s participation in leadership
Is there a gender issue? “All interviewees—both men and women—are strongly convinced that … working conditions in their credit unions are equal for all, with no distinction according to gender and no limitations to participate at any level. “There is no difference; both men and women have the same opportunities.” CEO (man) ”
Size may matter… CU size may have an effect on promotion and career development opportunities SMALLER • Can afford fewer employees • More multi-tasking • Lower salaries • Less need of highly-skilled staff BIGGER • More staffing needs • Higher educational & technical requirements • More mobility • Structured working hours
1 What is your experience? The Mexican data suggest a general perception that women’s participation in leadership positions is not a gender issue. In your institutional context, is there a gender issue regarding women’s leadership? “Overall, interviewees see their career path within a credit union as an individual one, not influenced by gender affairs.”
Personal attributes matter, as do technical skills T RU S T Credibility LOYALTY Sense of responsibility Honesty I n t e g r i t y TECHNICAL SKILLS Eagerness Service-orientation Problem-solving
While caring for family is not seen as an obstacle, having a support network is key “In some remote places, there are no training centers or universities. Anyone the cooperative sends away for training must be willing and able to take the time.” CEO (woman) Having family or a support network to help care for elderly parents and/or children plays an important role in allowing women to pursue career opportunities.
Job requirements &local realities play a role too • Time & travel • Culture & tradition (perception of women) • Security concerns due to location of work
2 What is your experience? The Mexican case studies suggest that traditional role division schemes as well as (culturally-formed) perceptions of women matter when it comes to choosing a career path. To what extent do these issues still matter in your institutional context? How many men do you know who have given up a leadership position to dedicate themselves to family, other interests, etc.?
The role of CEO’s personal preferences, perceptions & two-way stereotypes I prefer hiring men. They’re more unconditionally available and versatile. Women can’t change tires and should not drive alone on highways. I prefer hiring women. They’re more honest and hardworking. They are good with clients.
The strongest negative views about women are held by women “Women are listless, passive, lack initiative, even when given the opportunities to improve. Life should not be made easy for women; they should be able to self-motivate. Women should not be given a chance just for being women. Sometimes, we’re lazy, excuse-prone or selfish.” CEO(woman) “Sometimes you must dedicate your life to this to make it work. It you can’t do it, then this is not the job for you.” CEO (woman)
3 What is your experience? The Mexican case studies suggest that women leaders use varying leadership styles, some of them even at odds with women as employees and leaders. How do women in leadership positions behave towards other women in your institutional context?
“In general, interviewees consider that participation is open to all, but background, context and circumstance are not the same for everyone. Thus, although “the door may be open” to all, not all are willing or able to walk through it. ”
The legitimacy of personal choice not to participate in leadership While this in some cases may be due to cultural conditioning, subconsciously affecting a woman’s choice to occupy a leadership position, it may as well be an authentic and legitimate decision not to get involved. Reasons may include lack of interest, lack of pay (board positions are generally unpaid), other priorities (e.g. family, hobbies), dislike for politics. Also, not all women, who might be able to become leaders, want the burden of the responsibility, as this may result in additional stress, time commitments or other trade-offs they may not be willing to endure. ”
4 What is your experience? The Mexican data suggest that an important number of women are not interested in being formal leaders in their organization. What are the reasons why you have seen women opt out of a leadership position?
Recommendations to foster women’s participation • Proposals for further study regarding women’s leadership participation in credit unions • Study a larger and representative sample of credit unions • Deeper analysis of selected aspects of female leadership patterns • Actions to foster women’s participation in general, with a focus on current and future female credit union leaders • Awareness-raising activities and information • Leadership training and mentoring programs • Technical training programs • Accessory support measures
5 What is your experience? The Mexican data brought up suggestions for actions to be taken to promote women as leaders in credit unions. Do you believe that women should focus more on fostering other women? What are the lessons learned from actions your institution has undertaken to ease women’s participation in leadership positions?
Ursula Heimann, PhD email@example.com Gabriela Zapata firstname.lastname@example.org