By KERRY L. SMITH
The evolution of women in finance reflects the financial evolution of women in general from the 1970s on, says Geraldine Burek. As president and chief executive officer of South Division Credit Union in Evergreen Park, Ill. and as the Illinois Credit Union’s board chairman, Burek has a unique vantage point from which to view the opportunities and challenges women face in finance. Women’s increased numbers and importance in the workplace, she says, have made gender comparisons more compelling and honest; women are bolder and more available to opportunities, and yet, like everyone, women still need to seek out individual opportunities, regardless of gender.
For the past three decades, Burek has worked in the credit union industry - from the local to the international levels. Her experience working at a small credit union in a large metro market has equipped Burek with the expertise of representing the unique, cooperative nature of the business, she says. Whenever possible, she has done her best to grow the positive reputation of credit unions in the political arena, sharing their mission and outreach in local communities.
Burek heads South Division Credit Union, a $60 million, state-chartered, federally insured community credit union in Evergreen Park, 12 miles south of the Loop in Cook County. She became president and CEO in 1987 after five years as manager of Chicago Greyhound Federal Credit Union.
A director of the Illinois Credit Union League since 2003 and its current board chairman, Burek has been active in state, national and international credit union movements. She has served as president of two state credit union chapters; is a long-time ICUL Foundation member; is a 30-year Credit Union Executive Society member; was Illinois council chairman of the CUES, and was CUES Executive of the Year in 2004. Burek is also a 30-year member of the Credit Union Political Action Council, a past board chair and fundraising committee member. She is a currently member of the Credit Union Legislative Action Council’s leadership circle and the Credit Union National Association’s governmental affairs committee. Burek served on CUNA’s subcommittee for state-chartered credit unions from 2009-2012. Internationally, she is active in the World Council of Credit Unions as a 25-year member and is a charter member of its Global Women’s Leadership Network established four years ago.
At home on Chicago’s South Side, Burek has also made time to serve her local community, being elected for two terms to Chicago Public School’s Local School Council and serving on its principal evaluation and search committees. Burek opened one of the first full-time, in-school student branches in Illinois at Brother Rice High School in 2002, and has since served on its advisory and finance councils and its accreditation focus group.
Among the local charities Burek engages with and supports are: St. Elizabeth Women’s Shelter, Garden Center for the Handicapped, Anti-Cruelty Society and PAWS Chicago, St. Coletta of Illinois Foundation, Gifts for the Troops and the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.
The Evergreen Park Chamber of Commerce named Burek “Business Person of the Year for 2011.”
Burke attended the University of Illinois at Chicago, graduated from the CUNA Management School in 1981 and became a Certified Credit Union Executive in 1986.