World Council of Credit Unions’ President/CEO Elissa McCarter LaBorde encouraged a crowd of Brazilian credit union women and youth to show up and put their best selves forward by connecting with different cultures through the international network available to them.
“You are a very important part of this global credit union movement, and we need you to all help us tell our story, to help us argue that credit unions are uniquely positioned to drive inclusion in every small town, big city, or dispersed island around the globe,” said McCarter LaBorde.
That message got a very positive reception from the more than 1,000 people attending Super Summit Sicredi, a conference for the women and youth who work for, or are members of Sicredi, World Council’s direct member credit union system in Brazil. Smaller credit union delegations from more than a dozen other countries are also attending the two-day forum.
McCarter LaBorde emphasized that young people in the audience could put their best selves forward by meeting the challenges of the future, such as climate disasters and income inequality.
“And it’s easy to look at all that as leaders of the future and just throw up your hands and say, ‘what can we do? What can I do?’ My message is that we have this amazing international network of deeply rooted credit unions in over 100 countries. And the fact is, we are doing something. And you have a place, a network, to be able to do something about many of the stifling challenges and inequalities that we face,” said McCarter LaBorde.
Speaking from personal experience, McCarter LaBorde got her biggest round of applause during a question-and-answer session, when asked how she, as a married mother of three children, balances life and work with such a demanding job. She advised women to forget about achieving a perfect balance and believe in themselves.
“If I have to pick my kid up from school, I’m just going to have to do that and say that I’m doing it, and model that as the makeup of a leader, right? There are different ways to lead. And for me, if we’re going to have women and men be deeply engaged with their families, which we know is critically important, then we need to acknowledge that we need to accommodate the messiness of life,” said McCarter LaBorde. “I think modeling that behavior for others makes it a little easier for women to take big jobs and not always second guess taking that new job—or saying, ‘should I wait until I’m older and my kids are older’? Because those opportunities will pass you by if you don’t take them.”
In nearly an hour on stage, McCarter LaBorde also spoke about the importance of credit unions to evolve and get ahead of issues such as digitalization and sustainable finance, noting that Sicredi is a leader in both areas and a model for other national movements.
That sentiment was echoed by World Council Board Chair Diana Dykstra.
“I know every day, you, your teams and all of your credit unions work hard to change people’s lives, and I want to thank you for all that you do,” said Dykstra.
A special example of WYCUP leadership
Day one of the Super Summit also featured a panel discussion, led by WOCCU Director of Member Services’ Thomas Belekevich, on how Sicredi has embraced and grown the principles put forth by WYCUP (World Young Credit Union Professionals).
Establishing a system of Youth Committees throughout the country, Sicredi not only works to advance social programs through their credit union young professionals, but their young members as well.
Vinicius Mattia, a university professor in the Brazilian state of Parana, also serves as a Sicredi Youth Committee member. He feels more youth partnerships between credit union employees and community members are the key to a better society.
“We are in this place of cooperation. The best path is to be united with the same purpose. When people start understanding there’s this cooperative business model, which we sometimes call ‘alternative,’ but in my view it is the model that is the most correct. So, I would like young people to have spaces and moments where they can have more cooperative experiences, like with Sicredi. It is more than a place of knowledge and exchange; these spaces have lot of potential for personal growth too,” said Mattia, who was a WYCUP Scholarship recipient in 2020.
Belekevich said Mattia’s passion for the financial cooperative model shows the value of community youth engagement for credit unions around the world.
“In that sense, Sicredi has inspired us a lot. What you guys do here, with the Youth Committees, is impressive. I have never seen anything like it that has developed something so powerful in its ability to empower youth. We are able to inspire other countries with your example,” said Belekevich.
Super Summit Sicredi concludes Tuesday and will feature Global Women’s Leadership Network (GWLN) Director Lena Giakoumopoulos leading a pair of panel discussions on women in credit unions.