Kimberly Woollard (pictured above, left, with political strategist and CNN contributor Donna Brazile) has established herself as a champion of diversity in Tampa, Fla.
The National Diversity Council named Woollard, senior vice president of human resources and people development for Tampa-based Grow Financial Federal Credit Union, one of Florida’s most powerful and influential women.
In 2010, she received the National Diversity Council’s Glass Ceiling Award, and under her direction, $1.7 billion asset Grow Financial received the eWomen Network’s Most Supportive to Women in Business Award.
Who: Kimberly Woollard
What: Senior vice president, human resources and people development
Where: Grow Financial FCU, Tampa, Fla.
Woollard tells Credit Union Magazine how Grow Financial Federal promotes diversity in the Tampa Bay community—and how it benefits by doing so.
CU Mag: How does Grow Financial FCU foster and celebrate workplace diversity?
Woollard: Diversity awareness is one of our company values. We involve everyone, from the executive office to the teller line. Throughout the year we celebrate the contributions women and minorities have made to our country.
Our Diversity Awareness Committee and Sub-Committee have been great sources of inspiration. These committees bring headquarters and branch employees together to plan diversity awareness events.
This year, they suggested participating in the St. Petersburg Pride Festival, one of the largest in the nation. It was a great success for us, and demonstrated our support of diversity in the Tampa Bay community.
CU Mag: How does diversity contribute to the success of Grow Financial FCU?
Woollard: Diversity has contributed to our success from the beginning. We were the first credit union established to serve the military community of Tampa Bay, a multi-racial membership group. This was in 1955, when the civil rights movement was in its infancy.
As we expanded membership beyond our traditional affiliation, we formed partnerships with small businesses whose employees needed credit union services. These new members represented the demographic mix of our five-county market area.
So you might say diversity came to us naturally, but it’s nothing we take for granted. We’re actively developing new services to support the financial goals of our members, such as Project Quince, a savings account to help families save for the traditional Quinceañera.
By giving our members a credit union with which they can identify, diversity gives us a competitive edge.
CU Mag: What’s the biggest barrier to workplace diversity?
Woollard: The biggest barrier is simply the willingness to do so, which means leaving your comfort zone. The initiative to embrace diversity must come from the senior levels of management, and your commitment must go beyond lip service.
CU Mag: How can CUs overcome this barrier?
Woollard: See who is in the teller line at your branches. Look at the neighborhood around the branch. Then hire employees who represent the community.
Provide training to your employees, giving them the tools to serve the membership, such as lending classes in Spanish. Look for opportunities to get involved.
For example, we sponsor the annual Young Women’s Leadership Conference, where high school girls are introduced to influential women from the local business community. Diversity awareness is simply a matter of showing respect and discovering the common ground we all stand on.
CU Mag: Does being named one of Florida’s most powerful and influential women earn you any special consideration at home?
Woollard: Are you asking if my children are finally listening to me? Honestly, nothing has really changed for me personally. I don’t dwell on the recognition I’ve received.
Both of my parents served in the Peace Corps, and I was raised with a strong sense of responsibility to the community. Getting involved in diversity awareness is my way of giving back.
What I’m proud of is the distinction Grow Financial has earned as a progressive company, committed to diversity. I have to credit both our management and our employees for this. We’ve all contributed to making our credit union a model for openness and inclusion, and an example for other businesses to follow.
CU Mag: What’s one thing your staff doesn’t know about you?
Woollard: I think they pretty much know everything there is to know about me. I’m very open with them, and I love the rapport we have.
If there’s one thing about me that might surprise them, it’s that I fantasize about a career in fashion!