2020 started as a bright, beautiful new year, new decade and new day for the future of women. Glass ceilings were being shattered or broken rungs were being fixed (depending on which theory you support) at major corporations, universities, government entities and in financial services. We were on a roll, confidence building that barriers could come down, and we could all push for progress as the need was clear. At CUNA’s Governmental Affairs Conference, Global Women’s Leadership Network’s breakfast had the highest attendance ever and shined the light on members by celebrating growth, achievement and international impact.
In March, the darkness hit. We witnessed an unprecedented new reality—one full of uncertainty and unknowns. Everything was shut down worldwide, jobs were lost and healthcare became the greatest concern for all humanity. First there was panic, and critical safety issues needed to be addressed: food, shelter and basic necessities. On the other side of the panic, there were practical matters to worry about. Children were not in school and needed virtual teachers. Grandparents in retirement centers were unable to physically connect with their families as the days of isolation kept increasing. Women were particularly hit by the pandemic because they were the ones expected to care for the family. Women lost their jobs. And there were many women at the epicenter as first responders saving lives.
We were all stunned and overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the issues we faced individually when a communal voice started to rise: “WE ARE STRONGER TOGETHER.” Our new reality brought forth the undeniable strength, power and will of women in the credit union system. Within weeks, we activated our network and GWLN began to reach out virtually. What was once a localized, in-person network exploded into virtual workshops and meetings with international audiences, mental health conversations and working-from-home resource-sharing with women participating from six continents—all hit by COVID-19 and all facing similar risks.
The augmented connectivity and access to each other across borders became a phenomenon and more women joined—to be part of something special, but also to listen for stories of hope, inspiration and encouragement to tackle the unforeseen challenges ahead while keeping an eye on their ultimate destination.
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