Women in Business: Mary Mitchell Dunn, Regulatory Advocacy Specialist, Credit Union National Association

05/04/2015 05:52 am ET | Updated May 04, 2016

Mary Mitchell Dunn is a Regulatory Advocacy Specialist for the Credit Union National Association (CUNA). Mary has worked for CUNA for over 27 years and has made a number of contributions to the credit union system.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I have worked hard but try to work smart every day - still do - and try to treat everyone fairly while standing up for my principles. I have also been able to rely on great family and friends for support - and that includes pets such as our current menagerie!! I grew up in Arkansas in modest circumstances but my Dad always taught us to believe we have a great source of strength within ourselves. I also think volunteering for organizations such as the Capital Area Food Bank and causes has shaped my perspectives. In addition, having great hobbies that compliment your work life are very useful. One of mine is the violin, which I didn't start learning until I was an adult - much easier said than done but definitely worth the effort.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at CUNA?
Working on financial issues for several years certainly helped but also learning from credit unions and their members has been a continual reward.

What have the highlights and challenges been so far during your career?
The highlights have been working with great credit union people. Also, helping to organize Women in Housing and Finance, a prominent professional association for women and men. The challenges have been and continue to be overregulation and the after math of the financial crisis. I remember watching starting in September 2008 when the stock market began just falling and falling and my life became one stress bomb after another. The real issue though is that credit unions have done very well by their members throughout the financial crisis and will continue to improve financially. They should not be subjected to the kinds of overkill rules that have plagued them under Dodd-Frank and in the wake of the crisis.

What advice can you offer to women who are seeking for a career in law and on Capitol Hill?
Go for it. Prepare yourself as best you can through education, networking, maximizing whatever opportunities come your way. Be kind in the process.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I don't always, quite frankly. But I try to meditate and do the other things that are good for body and soul.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
A lot has been written on this, about the workplace generally from a variety of perspectives, documenting a number of issues that hold both genders back. All of these issues should be dealt with so that talented workers have opportunities to contribute and develop.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Having a great mentor is useful to anyone but once you get to a certain point in your career, it is just as or more important to mentor others.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I have a list and my daughter is certainly on it. Candidly, Arianna Huffington is also at the top. She spoke at our Government Affairs Conference two years ago and it was great to visit with her. Her accomplishments are amazing. But I also admire wonderful women such as Malala Yousafzai, Candy Crowley, Anne Sophie Mutter, Angela Merkel, Shelley Moore Capito, Nancy Pelosi, Sandra Day O'Connor, Alice Rivlin, Kay Bailey Hutchinson, Sonia Sotomajor, Elizabeth Warren... and others.. I am sure I left some off but they all have exceptional leadership qualities and believe in themselves and their causes.

What do you want CUNA to accomplish in the new year?
Help credit unions remain strong and achieve lasting regulatory reform because they deserve it. They can do even more for their communities if policymakers would let them serve their members without second guessing or imposing more and more requirements on their operations.