The Global Women's Leadership Network met during the 2022 World Credit Union Conference in Scotland.

Forum advances women’s leadership

Global Women’s Leadership Network fosters professional growth.

August 17, 2022

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Forum advances women’s leadership

Leadership expert and executive coach Laurie Maddalena urged fellow women not to settle for less than they deserve during the Global Women’s Leadership Network (GWLN) Forum at the 2022 World Credit Union Conference in Scotland.

Maddalena explored why women are hesitant to promote themselves and their worth in the workplace.

“I turn to my ‘inner coach’ and not let my inner critic make the decisions," she says. “I call this our higher self, our best self, who has our best interest in mind in helping us reach our personal and professional goals.”

The forum also featured a panel of women credit union leaders sharing perspectives on how to promote global financial inclusivity. Moderated by Maddalena, the panel featured Joselita Cardona, CEO at Most Holy Rosary Multi-Purpose Cooperative in the Philippines, and Karen Bennett, CEO at Enterprise Credit Union in the U.K.

“It's important that we, as leaders, give access to people who don't know what formal lending institutions are," Cardona says. "As cooperatives, we need to have empathy and we have to act on it. We have to give them livelihood programs, help them earn a living and help them to manage their finances. That’s important.”

The World Credit Union Conference is the annual site of the GWLN Forum, which began in 2009 in Barcelona, says Eleni Giakoumopoulos, GWLN program director.

“Initially, it was a group of women talking about the global issues that were impacting them, how women could progress to more leadership roles in their respective financial cooperatives, and how they could support one another through personal and professional development,” she says.

Today, GWLN has engaged more than 4,500 leaders from 86 countries, including 155 “sister societies” in countries, states, and cities that support the network’s activities. 

“There are numerous differences and yet many similarities for women’s advancement to leadership in every country we are present,” says Giakoumopoulos. “For some women, it’s advancing within their own cooperatives. For others, the leadership focuses on moving their cooperative systems forward or establishing basic financial services for women in their communities. But through our global perspective and our collective knowledge we empower one another. GWLN is a true international sisterhood.”

One GWLN inaugural group founder, Patsy Van Ouwerkerk, received the 2022 Athena Award at this year’s forum. Inspired by the goddess of Greek mythology who stands for strength, courage, and wisdom, this award is presented to an individual or organization that has made an outstanding contribution to women's leadership in the international credit union movement.

Van Ouwerkerk also serves as GWLN’s fundraising committee chair, providing outreach and support for scholarships, grants and educational events. She also co-chaired the Sacramento Sister Society.

GWLN also offers a “pink” paper, which provides insight on creating more leadership opportunities for women within the global credit union moment. Released last year, the paper includes insights from 20 GWLN credit union executives, CEOs, and board members from across the globe, as well as survey findings of GWLN’s membership base.

“The paper provides insight on what credit unions and their leaders can do to be part of our global effort to empower women and further their advancement in leadership roles within the global credit union system,” says Giakoumopoulos.