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EDITORIAL: Women should be fixture on board


EDITORIAL: Women should be fixture on board

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BARBADIANS ARE GENERALLY proud about the progress its women have made over the years in various areas of endeavour.

However, the complaint made against the Barbados Cooperative & Credit Union League of being an all-male bastion in 2014 by a female business executive shows that the record is not without blemish.

The cry of disapproval from Ms Lynette Holder about the umbrella body for cooperatives and credit unions having a board of directors which reflects an old boys’ club cannot be simply shrugged off as pure anger and without merit.

The fact is that over the years the league has had women on its board and the way the process of nomination and election of candidates goes at its annual general meeting there is always the possibility of women winning a seat at the highest level. The constituent members can virtually see to this becoming a reality.

So the arguments advanced in defence of the board’s composition by Mr Barry Hunte, president of the league, pointing to the transparency and democracy in its election process, are valid.

However, this in no way negates the key issues raised by Ms Holder, herself a former member of the league’s board. They cannot be dismissed as the mouthing of a disconsolate member.

Given the spectacular growth of the credit union movement in Barbados over the past 30 years and the contribution of women to its success, it is important that they be seen in the forefront of the governance of the cooperative movement. This must be encouraged since they often bring a different perspective to board discussions.

On this occasion, the concern is about the need for women to have a consistent presence at the board table. The time may not be far off when a similar argument is advanced for better representation of young people there as well.

With her inner knowledge and understanding of the league and indeed the credit union movement itself, Ms Holder may want to become an activist, keeping watch for the betterment of the movement. This is not something that should be left solely to the various supervisory committees or even the Financial Services Commission. There needs to be a new level of activism in the credit union movement.

The league must understand the importance of board diversity and the need to introduce new skill sets and new perspectives in an ever-changing environment.

At the same time, the board must engage in a candid conversation about how to move forward in this new environment. This will of necessity include a periodic evaluation and review of the board’s vitality. This may show that there is need to make room for new blood.

Ms Holder may have started discussion on a topic which may prove to be a difficult and even uncomfortable conversation.

It is, however, necessary.