Every year, during Hispanic Heritage Month (HHM), we’re reminded of the contributions that Latinos have made and continue to make in our country. While it shouldn’t take a designated month for us to do this, having a designated month certainly helps keep the topic top of mind. During HHM, I personally try to celebrate my Hispanic heritage and the heritage of more than 60 million Latinos in the U.S. in one way or another.
This year, my family and I exchanged our traditional celebratory phone messages on Mexico’s Independence Day, Sept. 16. In addition, we are planning to attend our local Iowa’s Latino Heritage Festival to catch some live entertainment and enjoy some great local Latino cuisine.
All across the country, you will find a myriad of ways to connect with your local communities and celebrate HHM. You may also find businesses reaching out to you in unexpected ways and reminding you of HHM.
Recently, I was surprised to see Hulu directing me to their HHM page, which listed a variety of Hispanic focused and Spanish-speaking content — a testament of the business opportunity in reaching Hispanic audiences.
When I worked at Coopera, I helped credit unions nationwide better serve those same Hispanic audiences as an opportunity for growth, expanding the principles of HHM into a year-round mission. Helping credit unions plan specific internal and community-focused cultural events certainly made HHM a busy time for the Coopera team, and that hold s true, today.
Transitioning from Coopera to serve as the CEO of PolicyWorks, I have shifted my focus to help credit unions tackle their risk and compliance challenges, allowing them more time to focus on member services and expanding their shops. Yet, it continues to be important for me to find ways that our work at PolicyWorks intersect and compliment areas such as Hispanic outreach and more broadly, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. This has been an especially exciting opportunity for me and our team.
One of the ways that we have done this is by becoming a proud partner of the DEI Collective, which seeks to bring together experts and resources focused on DEI and provide awareness of these resources to the credit union industry at large. PolicyWorks is addressing the compliance and risk side of DEI. We don’t often realize that serving new markets and expanding DEI strategies include important compliance and risk considerations. One such area is expanding lending programs for immigrants.
To address this topic more specifically, PolicyWorks teamed up with Filene, Inclusiv and Coopera to bring more awareness of this opportunity for credit unions through the development of an ITIN Lending Guide and regional workshops.
In addition to connecting my work to HHM, over the years I have also had the opportunity to acknowledge people and organizations for their contributions to the Latino community and community at large in a variety of ways, whether through my direct work or through volunteer work in the community. In turn, I have also been humbly acknowledged for my contributions as a businesswoman, young professional, mentor and volunteer.
Most recently, I was recognized as a 40 Under 40 award recipient by our local business publication, The Business Record. This was an exciting honor I was able to share with 39 amazing young people in our community. A few years back, the Iowa chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) also recognized me as the Latino Business Person of the Year. An award I don’t take lightly, given the amazing talent in our community.
As I reflect on these humbling moments, I am reminded of the many ways that we each have to recognize those around us for their efforts and contributions to our many, diverse communities.
My closing thought would be to challenge all of us to take the time to nominate people for local awards and recognitions, to personally thank them for what they do and more importantly to get to know our local community more deeply through the variety of connection points at our fingertips. As a last resort, we can use the gift of HHM which gives us many opportunities to connect with people and our communities.
Miriam De Dios Woodward is the CEO of PolicyWorks, LLC. She also serves as Senior Vice President of AMC, the holding company of the Iowa Credit Union League and parent organization of PolicyWorks.