Co-op women: three case studies

Shazia Manus, chief executive of TMG Credit union leaders from across the world examined how to support women credit union members at the Global Women’s Leadership Network Breakfast...

Shazia Manus, chief executive of TMG

Credit union leaders from across the world examined how to support women credit union members at the Global Women’s Leadership Network Breakfast in Washington. The event, which takes place every year, looked at potential barriers that may prevent women members of credit union from becoming leaders and how credit unions could help empower them.

One speaker at the event was Shazia Manus (main picture), chief executive of TMG, who talked about her credit union journey. TMG helps credit unions and community banks provide innovative payment products to USA and Canadian consumers. Prior to joining TMG, Ms Manus was chief executive of Greater Iowa Credit Union where she helped increase profit and membership.

She grew up in Bangladesh and under the mentorship of her grandfather she took academic scholarship exams, something most girls were not encouraged to do. In 1988 Ms Manus immigrated to the USA with her mother and pursued a bachelor degree in economics at Iowa State University. After graduating she joined the credit union movement.

“Fifteen years ago I was nobody, and today, I stand before you as somebody. That was possible because I had sponsors, advocates, support and mentors, and some of you are here in this room,” she said.

Kim Wallace
Kim Wallace

Kim Wallace, chief financial officer at Westland Milk Products

Women matter in New Zealand perhaps more than most: it is the country which first gave women the vote in the 19th century.

At one point in its history women held all the top roles – Prime Minister, Chief Justice and Governor- General – reporting to a female British monarch.

And today, NZ has co-operative sector leaders such as Kim Wallace mentoring Kiwi women into executive roles.

An accountant by profession, Kim has grown her role and responsibilities as chief financial officer at dairy co-op Westland Milk Products over the past six years.

“I’ve enjoyed working within the co-operative sector since 1993, including time in Europe, North America and the Asia-Pacific region.

“I find the engagement with members very rewarding and particularly in my current role. I encourage women to part0icipate
in the dairy industry, and know that whatever their role, we can do anything: from on the farm to in the boardroom.”

Ursula Lidbetter
Ursula Lidbetter

Ursula Lidbetter, chief executive Lincolnshire Co-operative

In 1984 Ursula Lidbetter joined the Co-operative Group’s graduate trainee scheme. Two decades later, she became the first female chief executive of the 200,000-strong Lincolnshire Co-operative, taking charge of nearly 3,000 staff.

“Co-ops are about treating everyone equally and reflecting the diversity of our memberships. I’m proud to be part of a movement which encourages such a wide range of views and backgrounds and aims to represent them all,” she says.

“At Lincolnshire we have women in senior roles and that leads others to think that this is a place for them. But we’re also about equality of opportunity for all.

“Going forward, we should all make sure we’re treating every one of our colleagues the same when we’re considering employment issues like flexible working or shared parental leave. I’d want an application for flexible working to be treated in the same way whoever made it.”

Ms Lidbetter was “delighted” to be awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Hull in recognition of her contributions to business, but believes working together is where people power lies.

“I’ve been lucky enough to travel to Rwanda and meet people who were part of a co-op undertaking work such as basket weaving and making clothes,” she says.

“They were inspirational as they had faced such incredible adversity but had found the strength to collectively look for a solution. We can all learn from that – there’s power in working together.”

  • You can find all of our coverage of International Women’s Day 2016 here.
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