Put Your Data Where Your Mouth Is

The much-publicized Google memo got me thinking. Finance is a traditionally male-dominated field. In credit union land, 51.4% of CEOs are female yet collectively manage only 18.5% of the industry’s assets.

This summer, a Google employee wrote a controversial memo on his views of the gender gap in technology. The author argued the gap existed not because of bias or discrimination in the field, but because of biological differences between men and women. The Google employee made no mention of the biggest female attrition factor, which is being the primary caregiver in a family unit. Rather, the author implied that biology affects job preference, aptitude, and ability to perform under pressure.

As a woman who majored in math and works at a finance, consulting, and technology company, I was shocked and saddened by the Google memo. I do not feel my biology has prevented me from excelling in an analytical capacity or from being a strong industry analyst.

In fact, within my own organization, I see evidence contrary to the claims of the Google employee. The Google employee says woman have a stronger interest in people rather than things, relative to men. At Callahan & Associates, the majority of the information systems and technology team is women whereas the majority of the account management team is men.

Of course, n=1 doesn’t prove much, but what happens when n=5,759? (That’s the mathematician in me coming out. N refers to the population of a sample size; in the case below, the number of credit unions in our industry.)

So, I examined the performance of credit unions segmented by CEO gender. My findings indicate that, on a CEO level, gender does not appear to affect credit union performance one way or the other.

As you continue reading, please keep in mind I’m not saying women are better than men at leading credit unions. I’m saying the data shows women are not worse than men.


CEO Gender In The Credit Union Industry

Finance is a traditionally male-dominated field. Yet, in credit union land, 51.4% of CEOs are female.

Among the 5,759 credit unions for which second quarter financial data is available, 2,960 of their chief executives are female. (Note on my methodology: I took a list of CEOs and made assumptions on gender via the cultural association with first name. I also looked up individuals and saught more information through personal connections. If you see a name incorrectly categorized, please contact me and I will update the article with my apologies for the miscategorization.)

As an industry that prides itself on being progressive and cooperative, the credit union movement outperforms other industries when it comes to CEO gender diversity. For example, only 32 or 6.4% of Fortune 500 companies have female CEOs. And in a 2015 survey of 589 large banks, only 21 had female CEOs. That’s a mere 3.6%.

The interactive chart on CEO gender in the credit union industry below contains five tabs.

Tab 1: Credit Unions By CEO Name

The first tab shows the distribution of credit unions grouped by CEO first name and separated by gender. Female CEO names are on the left in blue, and male CEO names are on the right.

The most common male CEO name is John (109 credit unions), followed by Michael (91), David (85), Robert (75), Mark (71), and James (68). For females, Linda (57 CEOs), is the most popular name. Note, this does not combine nicknames. For example, Bob and Robert are two different categories.

Search for any name using the Highlight First Name search bar and scroll over the boxes to see the results.

Tab 2: Credit Unions By Asset Size

The next tab looks at credit unions by asset size. The size of the square correlates to asset size of the credit union.

More than four-fifths of the area is green, meaning male CEOs manage most of the industry’s assets. Male CEOs collectively manage $1.1 trillion of industry assets versus the $251.0 billion managed by female CEOs. Put another way: 51.4% of female credit union CEOs collectively manage only 18.5% of the industry’s assets.

Of the 523 credit unions with more than $500 million in assets, 15.5% have female CEOs.

Hover over the boxes on the second tab to see the size of the credit union. The five largest credit unions all have male CEOs. However, the sixth- largest, The Golden 1 ($11.2B, Sacramento, CA), has a female CEO, Donna Bland, who has held the helm for nearly seven years.

Tab 3: State Distribution

When it comes to geographical distribution, some states have more female credit union CEOs than others.

The third tab, labeled State Distribution, shows a deeper green for states with a greater percentage of male CEOs and a deeper blue to indicate more female CEOs. Many states hover around 50%, but there are outliers. For example, women lead 73.7% of Arkansas’s credit unions and 20.0% of Rhode Island’s.

Take a look at average asset size, and you’ll see a correlation between states with large average asset sizes and small female CEO percentages. This state distribution makes sense in the context of asset size. The average female-run credit union has $84.9 million in assets, whereas the average male-run credit union has $397.7 million in assets.

Tab 4: Performance Comparison

The fourth tab, labeled Performance Comparison, shows various metric medians across six different asset bands. Since the asset averages vary significantly, it is best to break this down by asset size. The results are mixed.

Female-run credit unions have higher median ROAs in every asset category, yet male CEOs have a higher proportion of higher growth rates. Credit unions with female CEOs outperformed in every category for credit unions with more than $500 million in assets; yet, credit unions with male CEOs had growth rates that were 35 basis points higher on average for credit unions in the $100 million to $250 million group. The evidence is not conclusive one way or the other.

Tab 5: ROM Comparison

The fifth and final tab shows distributions of ROM (Return of the Member) percentile rankings for each credit union divided up by asset band. Callahan & Associate’s priority score system, ROM, shows to what degree credit unions provide value to their members. Credit unions with female CEOs have higher median ROM rankings in four out of the six asset bands. But, again,there is a wide distribution of ROM performance for both genders.


In the credit union space, the data does not suggest women avoid positions of power for biological or any other reason. The credit union industry is not Google, but what it takes to be a credit union CEO does hit on all three of the gender differences laid out by the Google employee.

And credit union data does not support the author’s claims that:

  1. Because women are drawn to feelings and aesthetics rather than ideas, they choose not to assume leadership roles. In fact, there are more female CEOs than male CEOs in the credit union industry.
  2. Extraversion expressed as gregariousness rather than assertiveness is preventing women from leadership roles. The credit union industry might be cooperative, but there’s a healthy degree of assertiveness needed to assume the role of CEO at a financial institution.
  3. Neuroticism (higher anxiety, lower stress tolerance) is preventing women from being successful in their careers. The number of female CEOs combined with the performance of female-run credit unions does not substantiate claims that neuroticism deters from female success.

When it comes down to it, the gender of a credit union’s CEO does not impact the performance of the credit union. Credit union performance data supports the notion that a woman CEO can be as successful as her male counterparts.

My hope is that young women who aspire to success in traditionally male-dominated fields don’t pay too much attention to unsubstantiated rants and look at the data instead.

Do We Have Your Data Correct?

To ensure that we have your CEO and other executives correctly identified in our system, we urge credit unions to verify their data.

Verify Your Data

This article appeared originally on CreditUnions.com on Aug. 21, 2017.

September 22, 2017

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