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Diversity and Performance of Credit Union Boards of Directors

By Luis Dopico and Moriah Taylor - October 05, 2022

Discover the current state and recent evolution of women's and minority presence on credit union boards, and how this representation impacts performance.

Credit unions, and their boards of directors, evolve over time. In recent decades, many credit unions have evolved from being smaller, volunteer-run institutions to become far larger, professionally-managed ones. And alongside this shift, board makeup has also naturally changed and will continue to do so.

CUCollaborate's recently-published research report, "Credit Union Boards of Directors: Board Size, Gender, Race, and Institutional Performance, 2012-2021," specifically investigates these trends and quantifies their impact across the industry. Here, we present a visual overview of those findings and outline how the data led to the report's conclusions.


In 2021, boards of directors of credit unions (hereafter: boards) generally included a relatively small number of directors, with 95% of credit unions reporting between 5 and 11 members. Interestingly, boards most often (in 80% of credit unions) report odd numbers of directors, presumably to avoid tied votes.

By far, the most common board size was seven and there were more boards with five or nine members than boards with six or eight members. Overall, with 36,543 board members at 5,044 credit unions, boards averaged 7.2 members in 2021.

On average, larger credit unions have larger boards. Very small credit unions (with under $10 million in assets) averaged 6.4 members on their boards while very large credit unions (with over $10 billion in assets) averaged 10.2 members.

Since most credit union members belong to larger credit unions, we also calculated a member-weighted average board size, which implies that average credit union members are served by boards with 8.9 directors.

When examining the sizes of boards over time, we found that they remained largely stable during 2012-2021 and this stability is seen across all asset sizes.


Using what information was available, we identified directors as women if their salutations were Ms. (used by slightly more than half of women) or Mrs. (used by slightly under half of women). We identified the small fraction of directors with the salutation of Dr. (1.1%) as either men or women based on our interpretation of the gender for their first name. At the time of writing, the NCUA uses only four salutations (along with Mr.), not having added options for gender-neutral salutations such as Mx., so our evaluation of gender is limited to a binary interpretation.

To present the variation in women's representation, we use the following ranges:
No women's representation: If there are no women on a board. 
Critical women's underrepresentation: Women account for between 0% and 20% of directors on a board, not including cases of no women’s representation. 
Moderate women's underrepresentation: Women account for between 20% and 40%. 
Gender parity: Women account for between 40% and 60%. For simplicity, we assumed that most credit unions serve both members and their families and that most credit unions will have memberships that do not differ markedly from 50% men and 50% women.
Moderate representation of women above proportion: Women account for between 60% and 80%. 
Women's boards: Women account for between 80% and 100%, not including cases of all-women boards
All-women boards: All directors are women. 

13,279 women
served on credit union boards in 2021. This averages to approximately 2.5 women per board, equating to 35% of boards, which is somewhat above the average for corporations in the Russell 3000 index (27%), but substantially below the percentage of female credit union members (~50%).

There is still no women's representation in a sizable fraction of boards, at 502 credit unions, or 10% of them. These credit unions tend to be smaller and thus, account for an even smaller fraction of credit union assets.

size, perccu, percassets
                        =0, 10, 3.2
                        >0-20, 14, 15
                        20-40, 33, 51
                        40-60, 29, 25
                        60-80, 11, 5.8
                        80-<100, 3.3, 0.2
                        =100, 1.0, 0.03

A large fraction of boards has gender parity (at 29% of credit unions with 25% of assets), but women's underrepresentation is still far more common (at 56% of credit unions with 69% of assets) than women representation above proportion (at 15% of credit unions with 6% of assets).

The average number of women in boards ranges somewhat widely across states, with unweighted averages ranging between 1.9 and 3.7 and member-weighted averages ranging between 1.7 and 5.1. While some individual credit unions include no women (or no men), there are no states where the average number of women on boards is zero (or below 1.7). Thus, in all states the norm is not for boards to not have a sole woman on boards, with the average most often having at least two women per board. Also, women's representation ranges somewhat widely across states, with unweighted averages ranging between 28% and 46% and member-weighted averages ranging between 19% and 52%.

Using our classification (and member-weighted values), there would be gender parity at the state level in nine states, moderate underrepresentation in 41 states, and critical underrepresentation in only one state. There does not appear to be a clear regional pattern in women's representation, with a broad range of states across levels of women's participation in boards. The table below shows the number of board members in each state, how many of them are female, and the percentage of women serving on boards in that state represented as a member-weighted average.

State Total
Total Female Directors % Female Directors (Weighted)
                        United States,36543,12758,32.3
                        District of Columbia,274,125,43
                        New Hampshire,114,44,32.2
                        New Jersey,915,319,33.1
                        New Mexico,263,116,42.2
                        New York,2206,852,33.4
                        North Carolina,513,177,51.8
                        North Dakota,210,71,36
                        Rhode Island,158,48,24.4
                        South Carolina,412,146,29.3
                        South Dakota,230,100,40.3
                        West Virginia,509,170,33.8

When comparing representation across asset sizes, very small credit unions have the highest levels of women's representation (averaging 43%), smallish credit unions have somewhat less women's representation (at 35%) and midsize (31%), largish (32%), and very large (31%) credit unions have even lower levels of women's representation, with moderate underrepresentation being the most common case.

From 2012-2021, women's representation increased steadily across all asset size ranges, with asset size ranges that were farther from parity making larger strides than those that were closer to parity. Thus, very small credit unions, which already were close to parity, increased women's participation by the smallest amount, from 41% to 43%, or by 2 percentage points and very large credit unions increased the most from 23% to 31%, or by 8 percentage points. 


With increases in women's representation ranging between two and eight percentage points across asset size ranges, one would expect to see sizable increases in overall women's representation. However, women's representation computed as a simple (unweighted) average dividing the number of women on boards by the total number of directors only increased by 2% (from 32.9% to 34.9%). This seemingly slower growth in women's representation is due to a shift in the structure of the credit union system, away from smaller credit unions and toward larger credit unions.

Smaller credit unions, on average, are challenged by less favorable economies of scale and provide their members lower levels of economic benefits and narrower ranges of products than their larger peers. Partially as a result, in recent decades, the number of smaller credit unions has steadily declined, and larger credit unions have gained market shares in members, loans, and deposits.

Since smaller credit unions have higher levels of women's representation, the ongoing shift in the credit union system from smaller institutions with high levels of women's participation to larger institutions with lower levels of women's participation means that (unweighted) measures of women's participation are experiencing headwinds and, thus, are growing more slowly.

However, computing unweighted measures of women's participation is unlikely to be the most relevant measure as it focuses excessively on smaller institutions with fewer members and assets. Computing an asset-weighted measure of women's participation more clearly highlights the experience of average members (or of their assets) showing that the large growth in women's representation among very large, largish, and midsize credit unions (each of which grew by between 5 and 8 percentage points) results in a large increase in women's representation of 6 percentage points, from 26% to 32%.


We approximate individual directors' race and ethnicity using a modified version of the Bayesian Improved Surname Geocoding (BISG) algorithm first developed by the RAND Corporation. The algorithm has been adopted by many organizations, including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to develop estimates of racial and ethnic disparities within datasets. The BISG algorithm uses surname (last name) and location* to obtain probable races for individuals, based on the relative preponderance of last names at the local level. Our version of the algorithm is modeled after an adaptation by Ioan Voicu (2016) which also uses the local prevalance of first names.

*Due to the lack of available information, we used the county of each credit union's headquarters as a proxy for the location of its board members.

5,006 non-white directors
served on credit union boards in 2021. This was equivalent to approximately 1.0 non-white members per board, accounting for 14% of boards, which is similar to the average for corporations in the Russell 3000 index (13%), but far below minorities' share in the communities that credit unions serve (42%).

Most credit unions (60%) have no minority representation; many of these credit unions tend to be smaller and, thus, account for a smaller fraction of credit union assets (38%). Only small fractions (7% of credit unions each) have boards with either (1) between 40% and 60% minority representation or (2) more than 60% minority representation.

size, perccu, percassets
                        =0, 60, 38
                        >0-20, 14, 37
                        20-40, 12, 15
                        40-60, 6.8, 6.8
                        60-80, 3.9, 1.9
                        80-<100, 2.1, 0.8
                        =100, 1.2, 0.4

Minority directors account for less than 10% of boards in 31 states, for between 10% and 30% of boards in another 18 states. Minority directors are in the majority in boards only in Hawaii, where they account for 85% of boards, and DC, where they account for just over 50% of boards.

The relationship between minority representation and asset size is complex. Smallish credit unions have the lowest levels of minority representation (at 12.5%), with representation being far higher among their smaller counterparts: very small credit unions (20.5%), and increasing fitfully among midsize (13.5%), largish (13.3%), and very large credit unions (16.7%).

When we look at minority representation across asset sizes during 2012-2021, we see that minority representation increased the most significantly for the smallest credit unions (3.8 percentage points) and the largest credit unions (10 percentage points).


Among very large credit unions, minority representation increased from 10.6% to 20.6%; however, while very large credit unions account for very large fractions of credit union members (22%) and of credit union assets (23%), they involve a very small, and fast changing, number of institutions. The number of very large credit unions increased from four to 19 during 2012-2021. During this time period, reported average minority representation for very large credit unions was volatile, not so much due to changes in the number of minority directors at individual institutions, but due to changes in the mix of very large institutions.

We examined the overall minority representation during 2012-2021 both on an unweighted and on an asset-weighted basis. The unweighted series has changed very little during this period, increasing from 13.3% to 13.9%, or by 0.6 percentage points. The asset-weighted series is more volatile, but shows a somewhat higher increase from 12.6% to 14.2%, or by 1.6 percentage points, highlighting that more members (and their assets) are being served by larger credit unions with higher minority representation. Under both measures, however, the increases in minority representation are either very small or small, and fall far short of the increases in minorities' share of the US population from 37% in 2012 to 42% in 2021.

Another way we evaluate racial/ethnic diversity in credit union boards is by comparing boards to the communities that they serve. We use the following categories to describe how much minority board shares match minority community shares:
Extreme underrepresentation: The minority board share is more than 50% lower than the minority community share, e.g., 15% vs. 70%.
Critical underrepresentation: The minority board share is between 30% and 50% lower than the minority community share, e.g., 0% vs. 40%.
Moderate underrepresentation: The minority board share is between 10% and 30% lower than the minority community share, e.g., 10% vs. 25%.
Parity representation: The minority board share is not more or less than 10% from the minority community share, e.g., 15% vs 20%.
Representation above proportion: The minority board share exceeds the minority community share by more than 10%, e.g., 80% vs. 65%.

A large fraction of boards has minority parity representation (at 21% or credit unions with 10% of assets), but minority underrepresentation is still far more common (at 75% of credit unions with 88% of assets) than minority representation above proportion (at 4% of credit unions with 2% of assets).

cat, perccu, percassets
                        Extreme underrepresentation, 5.9, 6.6
                        Critical underrepresentation, 23, 37
                        Moderate underrepresentation, 46, 44
                        Parity representation, 21, 11
                        Representation above proportion, 4.3, 1.6

To explore how states differ in representation of their communities, use the comparative donut charts below to see the difference in state populations and the composition of their boards.

     Race/Ethnicity Percentage
     Race/Ethnicity Percentage
                        United States,98.7,33348,86.2,7.73,1.38,0.06,0.22,4.46,60,12.4,5.8,0.7,2.8,18.4,26.2,-4.67,-4.42,-0.64,-2.58,-13.94,8.74
                        District of Columbia,100,265,38.87,50.94,3.4,0,0.38,6.42,37.3,44.1,4,0.2,3,11.3,1.57,6.84,-0.6,-0.2,-2.62,-4.88,2.79
                        New Hampshire,100,104,100,0,0,0,0,0,89.7,1.4,2.7,0.1,2.1,4,10.3,-1.4,-2.7,-0.1,-2.1,-4,3.43
                        New Jersey,99,850,80.71,11.06,1.88,0,0,6.35,54.3,12.7,9.6,0.1,2.4,20.9,26.41,-1.64,-7.72,-0.1,-2.4,-14.55,8.8
                        New Mexico,100,248,65.32,0,0.81,1.61,0,32.26,36.8,1.9,1.6,8.7,1.7,49.3,28.52,-1.9,-0.79,-7.09,-1.7,-17.04,9.51
                        New York,99.5,2030,90.64,5.42,0.89,0,0,3.05,55.1,14.2,8.6,0.2,2.6,19.3,35.54,-8.78,-7.71,-0.2,-2.6,-16.25,11.85
                        North Carolina,95.6,476,79.41,18.07,0.42,0,0.42,1.68,62.5,21.1,2.9,1.1,2.6,9.8,16.91,-3.03,-2.48,-1.1,-2.18,-8.12,5.64
                        North Dakota,100,185,98.92,0,0,0,0,1.08,83.6,2.9,1.8,5,2.7,4,15.32,-2.9,-1.8,-5,-2.7,-2.92,5.11
                        Rhode Island,100,150,98,0.67,0,0,0,1.33,70.8,5.8,3.4,0.2,3.5,16.3,27.2,-5.13,-3.4,-0.2,-3.5,-14.97,9.07
                        South Carolina,97.7,378,73.28,25.93,0,0,0,0.79,63.5,26.3,1.8,0.3,2.3,5.8,9.78,-0.37,-1.8,-0.3,-2.3,-5.01,3.26
                        South Dakota,95.3,205,98.54,0,0.98,0.49,0,0,81.5,2.3,1.5,8.4,2.6,3.7,17.04,-2.3,-0.52,-7.91,-2.6,-3.7,5.68
                        West Virginia,100,475,99.16,0.42,0.42,0,0,0,92,3.6,0.8,0.2,1.9,1.5,7.16,-3.18,-0.38,-0.2,-1.9,-1.5,2.39

Overall, board shares (14%) were far lower than their community shares (42%), implying minority underrepresentation by 28 percentage points. The Hispanic population was found to be the most underrepresented, with board shares at 5.2% and community shares at 18.7%.

All states show representation above proportion of the white population except for Hawaii. The representation above (or under) proportion across all races and ethnicities for each state are shown in the table below in percentage points.

                        United States,-4.42,-4.67,-13.94,-2.58,-0.64,26.2
                        District of Columbia,-0.6,6.84,-4.88,-2.62,-0.2,1.57
                        New Hampshire,-2.7,-1.4,-4,-2.1,-0.1,10.3
                        New Jersey,-7.72,-1.64,-14.55,-2.4,-0.1,26.41
                        New Mexico,-0.79,-1.9,-17.04,-1.7,-7.09,28.52
                        New York,-7.71,-8.78,-16.25,-2.6,-0.2,35.54
                        North Carolina,-2.48,-3.03,-8.12,-2.18,-1.1,16.91
                        North Dakota,-1.8,-2.9,-2.92,-2.7,-5,15.32
                        Rhode Island,-3.4,-5.13,-14.97,-3.5,-0.2,27.2
                        South Carolina,-1.8,-0.37,-5.01,-2.3,-0.3,9.78
                        South Dakota,-0.52,-2.3,-3.7,-2.6,-7.91,17.04
                        West Virginia,-0.38,-3.18,-1.5,-1.9,-0.2,7.16
State Asian/Pacific
Another Race
Native American/
Native Alaskan

Very small credit unions have the least minority underrepresentation (averaging 16 percentage points). Smallish, midsize, and largish credit unions have increasing levels of minority underrepresentation (21, 23, and 27 percentage points, respectfully).

Very large credit unions have substantially higher levels of minority underrepresentation (35 percentage points), with critical underrepresentation being the most common case (at 9 credit unions, or 47% of them). Note, however, that very large credit unions have substantially higher minority community shares (52%) than smaller credit unions (39%).


So how does the composition of a credit union board affect a credit union's financial performance? We examine the potential impact of board size, gender, and race/ethnicity on several key measures. Most of the measures that we explore focus on member-centric issues:

1. Loan benefits: How much lower interest rates on loans are at each credit union than at banks. We computed overall loan benefits as a weighted average of benefits for credit cards, other unsecured loans, new and used car loans, first mortgages, and other real estate loans.
2. Deposit benefits: How much higher interest rates on deposits are at each credit union than at banks. We computed overall deposit benefits as a weighted average of benefits for share drafts (checking), regular shares (saving), money market shares (deposits), share certificates (certificates of deposit, CDs), and IRA accounts.
3. Loans per assets: The fraction of funds that each credit union receives that it uses to serve the credit needs of its community.
4. Delinquent loans per loans: Which we interpret as a measure of credit inclusion, as loan delinquencies that are very low imply credit underwriting that focuses on members with stronger credit histories.
5. Product breadth: How many out of 29 non-core products does each credit union offer?

The other measures we examine are considered more traditional measures of performance:
6. Merger-adjusted and inflation-adjusted asset growth: We interpret asset growth as a measure that is both somewhat member-centric and somewhat focused on financial sustainability. Growth is somewhat member-centric since satisfied current members help credit unions attract more new members and more funds from both current and new members. Growth is also related to financial sustainability as institutions need to grow at least as fast as their communities to maintain market share and relevance.
7. Return on assets (ROA, or net income per assets): Since faster growing credit unions need to set aside more reserves to maintain their regulatory capital ratios.
8. Net worth (or capital) per assets: A key measure of financial solidity, or ability to withstand economic shocks such as swings in interest rate and credit quality cycles.

When taking all these measures into consideration, firstly, we found that board size does not have a significant effect on any of these key measures. Secondly, contrary to well-known claims of women being more risk-averse, we found that boards with more women were prone to more inclusive lending (i.e. higher delinquency rates without an effect on ROA) as well as higher rates of asset growth.

We also found this to be true of boards with more non-white members; what's interesting about this is that we found that the lending from boards with more minorities is more inclusive regardless of the community's composition.


Ultimately, credit unions should choose board sizes and structures to optimize the internal working of their boards and that ensure open and effective communication between the membership and the credit union. To address these concerns, credit unions could, for instance, seek to ensure that their boards, management, and employees are both professionally qualified and broadly representative of their memberships across a wide variety of demographic variables including gender, race, age, and income level.

Download the full report here.

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