International Women’s Day Feature: How Credit Unions Champion Gender Equality

International Women’s Day Feature: How Credit Unions Champion Gender Equality

Imagine a world where true gender equality existed. A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination that fosters a diverse, equitable, and inclusive world. A delightful concept, right? Well, for women in Canada and around the globe, that is the reality towards which they are striving towards. For centuries women have faced systemic social, political, and economic barriers that have hindered them from having their voices heard, earning respect, and getting a deserved seat at the table as swiftly as their male counterparts. To shed light on this disparity, International Women’s Day was born.

What is International Women’s Day?
Every year on March 8th in Canada and worldwide, we celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD). This global day commemorates the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women and reinforces the importance of continuing to cultivate gender equality both in the world and in the workplace. This year’s IWD theme is #EmbraceEquity, and that’s because equity isn’t a nice to have – it’s an absolute must.

Canada’s Credit Unions Were First to Offer Loans to Women in their Own Names
When it comes to gender parity, Canada’s credit unions don’t just talk the talk, we walk the walk too. As a value-based financial institution, the journey toward gender equality is deeply ingrained in our DNA. From becoming the first Canadian financial institution to offer women loanswithout the need for a male co-signer in 1961 to providing a range of financing opportunities to support female entrepreneurs, and leadership opportunities to those looking to take their careers to the next level, credit unions have been longstanding supporters of helping to uplift women in their personal and professional journeys. Don’t just take our word for it, the proof is in the pudding!Today, Canada’s credit unions continue to lead the charge towards gender equality in the financial sector, with 30% of CEO positions and 34% of Board of Director roles presently held by women. Simply put, credit unions across Canada understand the importance of empowering women to reach their full potential because when we do, we set ourselves on a path toward a more vibrant and inclusive credit union sector. Now that’s a win-win!

Today and every day, we are proud to celebrate the great strides women in leadership have made within Canada’s financial sector and worldwide. To celebrate International Women’s Day, we sat down with one of Canada’s Credit Union’s female leaders, Anita Saar, President & CEO of Northern Birch Credit Union, to learn more about her journey to success in a male-dominated sector and the influences in her life that have contributed to her success.

International Women’s Day Interview with Anita Saar, President & CEO, Northern Birch Credit Union
Which one woman has influenced you the most in your life?
Anita: My mother. I have been inspired by her integrity, tenacity, resilience in the face of adversity, and her consistent decency to others.

What barriers have you faced, as a woman, in becoming successful in your field? How did you overcome them?
Anita: When I was younger, women had to work harder and smarter to overcome the perception that certain roles were for men and that women filled in more support roles. I was raised in a household where male and female roles weren’t differentiated for me, despite the fact that my parents filled these very conventionally. I was expected to drive the boat alone at a young age, help build the deck, and bake pies. This meant that I went into work situations not very mindful of perceived barriers and ended up frequently in roles and education with mostly male colleagues and classmates. I focused on getting the work done and quickly developed a reputation for being the go-to if you wanted something done and done well. This is a characteristic that has served me well throughout my career.

Now as a seasoned professional, what is the most important advice would you give to young women hoping to break into a career in the financial services sector?
Anita: It’s important to know the technical aspects of your work. Also, don’t be shy to network and take opportunities to be seen as the high-performing individual you are by senior executives. Deliver on commitments, meet deadlines, and, most importantly, let your confidence shine.

Out of curiosity, what was your first experience with a Credit Union?
Anita: My first experience with a credit union, was obtaining a home equity line of credit to build our cottage when the big banks did not want to deal with cottages.

Ultimately, despite the challenges we face as women, Anita is proof that we still manage to achieve greatness, and Canada’s credit unions are proud to be part of the journey.

Show your support for a more equitable world for all Canadians…Become a credit union member
If you are looking for a financial institution that is committed to providing equal access to financial services for all and has paved the way for women to achieve leadership positions in the financial sector, then look no further – Canada’s credit unions has you covered. Not yet a credit union member? Find your nearest credit union, click here.