Mai-Linh Hoang

A champion for women in the movement

Award winner Mai-Linh Hoang advocates for gender balance.

May 20, 2020

When Mai-Linh Hoang joined the Global Women’s Leadership Network (GWLN), she discovered a community of women whose support she never knew she needed.

The vice president of marketing at $1.2 billion asset Collins Community Credit Union in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, co-led the creation of GWLN’s Iowa Sister Society in 2017. “I truly had no idea how far-reaching my work could be when we started this journey,” Hoang says.

In recognition of her work with the network and the credit union movement, Hoang received the 2019 Emerging Leader Award, presented by GWLN at the 2020 CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference.

“My goal is to pave the way for women and girls across the globe,” she says. “I envision a world where they will have the access, resources, and tools they need to reach their dreams.”

Credit Union Magazine: Which projects or initiatives contributed to your Emerging Leader Award?

Hoang: For the sustainability of GWLN, we are always finding new ways to fundraise. At Collins Community, we have a program where $5 of each paycheck from enrolled employees is donated to a charity.

Employees nominate charities and a committee chooses one charity per month to receive the donation. For the past couple years, we donated more than $2,000 to further the global work of the GWLN.

In 2019, we worked with a local Etsy vendor to design earrings for the Iowa Sister Society to sell at the Iowa Credit Union League Convention. We raised over $300 for GWLN at that event.

In addition, Collins Community is a direct contributor to GWLN. I have the support of my CEO, Stefanie Rupert, to invest time and resources into activities for GWLN, including the Iowa Sister Society Annual Summit.

This will be the Summit’s third year—we’re planning a virtual conference for the fall.

I also promote GWLN at conferences I attend, with people I talk to, and through social media.

Q: How did you get involved with GWLN?

A: My CEO brought me in during initial planning phases. She discovered that Iowa did not have a sister society and, as a female CEO at one of the larger credit unions in Iowa, thought we should start one.

I oversee marketing and strategic planning at Collins Community, and I have a background in corporate events planning. Naturally, the brainstorming for kicking off an Iowa Sister Society started with me.

Q: How has your involvement in GWLN enriched your life?

A: In my speech for the award, I talked about having a sisterhood I never knew I needed. I used to think I could make things happen with a lot of hard work and perseverance. While that is relatively true, I was still missing support from other women.

I am one of the younger executives on the senior management team at Collins Community, so GWLN gave me a great network to engage with women in my position.

My husband and I have two young girls, and I want to raise them in a world where they have no boundaries.

Q: How have you applied what you’ve learned from GWLN to your role at Collins Community?

A: I’ve gained a better idea of how to mentor young women looking to climb the ranks and make a difference.

Most women won’t apply for a role until they can fulfill 100% of its requirements. Meanwhile, men will go for a job they may be underqualified for. If they’re strong in a few requirements, they figure out how to fill any gaps. That can leave women in the dust.

There are times I hit a confidence roadblock when mentoring young women. Through GWLN, I can reach out for advice on assisting a mentee. Having access to a great network of women has been invaluable.

Q: What resources do women need to successfully navigate their careers?

A: Mentors are important. A good time to start incorporating different types of mentors is toward the end of the college years or early career.

I sought out both male and female mentors when I started my first job out of college. I wanted different perspectives and strategies. This was key to navigating the complex landscape of my career.

Looking back, my first two mentors played a big part in who I am today. My female mentor was a vice president of communications and my male mentor was a vice president of strategic initiatives.

I started out in strategic initiatives, and my male mentor encouraged me to explore public relations and communications. He helped me find a role in public relations, and the rest is history!

Q: How can credit unions achieve greater gender balance in leadership positions?

A: Realize the role women play in credit unions—not only diversity in gender, but diversity in thought. Women bring a different point of view. Have a culture that welcomes and engages women, with flexible work hours and environments.

Working moms put more time and effort into work because we are on a condensed schedule. We need to move past the adage of physically “showing up to work.” Work can be done is a multitude of ways, as we’ve shown during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The role of men also needs to be acknowledged. They play a large role in the ability to achieve greater gender balance.

Sadly, female voices still aren’t heard in the same way male voices are. When women have the support of male executives, others start to listen. But women still have a long way to go.

Gender balance also plays into the social cost of ambition for women. I speak and write a lot on this topic.

Q: What’s next for you and the Iowa Sister Society?

A: I am looking to grow the Iowa Sister Society and bring it to the other side of the state. Right now, we’re concentrated near Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, and Des Moines.

We’re working to bring professional development to women at small credit unions across the state, where they may not have the resources to attend conferences.

We’re also working on a virtual event. We don’t intend to charge for the event, so it will be readily accessible. I’d like to get many more credit unions involved so we can work cooperatively to continue to make our mark.