Gender diversity is vital to business success. Leaders must make it happen.

By Ian Burns, President and Chief Executive Officer

On International Women’s Day, we’re all reminded about the importance of gender diversity as we celebrate the amazing and talented women we work with every day.

Why is gender diversity so vital? It not only increases the talent pool and encourages new and different perspectives, but it better reflects the world we live in and, in the case of credit unions, the members we serve.

There is plenty of research to back-up the importance of gender diversity. It fosters innovation and increases performance, according to Harvard Business Review. In the McKinsey report Diversity Matters, companies with higher gender diversity are 15% more likely to have financial returns above national industry medians. So if we all know it’s important, why does a gender diversity gap remain and what can we do to move the dial?

Here are a few of my thoughts on how leaders can help increase gender diversity in the workplace.

Make diversity and inclusion part of who you are.

Start at the top. Build a diverse executive team and incorporate the idea of diversity into all that you do. Talk about why diversity matters to help increase awareness and understanding of the issue by all.

Share the responsibility.

Encourage all of your leaders to take ownership of diversity on their teams. Offer employees opportunities to learn about and task hiring managers with finding ways to lessen the impact of biases in interviews. Provide resources on how to keep the recruiting process as equitable as possible.

Measure and be accountable.

Set diversity objectives for the leadership team and organization as a whole and hold yourself to them. Start by analyzing the current gender split to identify patterns and trends. Once you identify if there are issues, make targets for the future and continuously report on results. At Alberta Central, we’re working to measure gender diversity over time and we shared corporate and system percentages in our 2017 Annual Report.

According to a report from Mercer, executive teams in the financial services industry are 85% male. But across Alberta credit unions, many leadership groups and boards have a much higher percentage of women. For example, Vermillion Credit Union’s executive is 71% women and, in 2018, Lakeland Credit Union’s Board of Directors was 57% women.


At Alberta Central, we have a 50-50 gender split at the executive level and 52% of senior managers are women. But there’s still more to be done at the Board table and across the province. If all leaders make gender diversity a priority, the credit union system can work together to increase the number of women at the top and enhance equality across Alberta.