Lead with courage

March 8, 2017
in Leadership
Women of the First West executive team. Left to right, Loree Gray (Sr. VP, Insurance), Leslie Castellani (VP, Strategic Initiatives & Corporate Affairs), Launi Skinner (Chief Executive Officer), Liz Bailey-Connor (Sr. VP, People Services), Shelley Besse (Chief Operating Officer)

First West CEO Launi Skinner on International Women’s Day

"Today, more than ever, our world needs leaders of courage, integrity and compassion to set a course that lifts others up and helps everyone thrive,” says First West Credit Union CEO Launi Skinner. “On International Women’s Day this year, we celebrate not only what women have achieved for the benefit of society but also all they have potential to contribute still.”

Skinner, who served as president of Starbucks USA before becoming CEO of one of Canada’s largest financial cooperatives, believes inspiring other women to be bold for change is more than simply a rally cry for this year’s celebration but a personal calling.

“Being bold and having courage for change—for me it’s all about determining my own future, rather than having it determined for me,” explains Skinner. “When I lead with courage, when other women lead with boldness, we change not only our immediate circumstances but we collectively begin to change the world around us.”

Having led First West for the past seven years and grown the organization from $4.7 billion in assets in 2010 to $9.4 billion today, Skinner is proud of the changes she has seen at her organization in terms of women’s advancement. She has established a gender-balanced executive team and senior management team. Under Skinner’s direction the credit union has invested heavily in the financial services education of women leaders from developing nations. Additionally Skinner is proud to have helped other women on her team develop courageous leadership through her personal mentoring relationships but also though engaging them with women’s leadership development organizations such as the Minerva Foundation.

Skinner has been recognized for her leadership and business acumen including being named one of “four Women to Watch” in Fortune Magazine’s 50 Most Powerful Women feature. Awarded an honorary doctorate in 2015 by the British Columbia Institute of Technology, Skinner has also been named as one of Canada’s Most Powerful Women four times and was appointed to the Hall of Fame by the Women’s Executive Network. Additionally, she received the 2011 Stevie Award for Best Canadian Executive and was named on of Business in Vancouver’s Most Influential Women in Business for 2012.