CUNA News is running a series of Q&As with female leaders in the credit union movement in honor of Women’s History Month.
Lily Newfarmer is the president/CEO of Tarrant County’s Credit Union, Fort Worth, Texas. She was named 2008 Southwest CUNA Management School Alumnus of the Year and 2017 Cornerstone Credit Union League Professional of the Year, and was a 2013 Credit Union Hero of the Year Nominee. She has been in the credit union industry for 33 years.
Q: In honor of Women’s History Month, what does diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) mean to you?
A: It means embracing the uniqueness of each individual, respecting and valuing their differences, actively welcoming their ideas and input, and ensuring the fair treatment of all.
Q: Why should DEI matter to the credit union movement?
A: Credit unions are owned and controlled by diverse groups of members. Diversity, inclusion, and equity within the credit union movement improves the member experience and generates additional opportunities for the credit union.
Q: Tell us about a hurdle that you overcame during your career and how it shaped your drive to succeed.
A: As a young professional, I struggled to be taken seriously and had to work twice as hard as my older coworkers to prove my worth. As a result, I developed a strong work ethic and determination that has carried me throughout my career.
As a result, I am intensely aware of the challenges facing young credit union professionals and strive to help them navigate these barriers to success.
Q: What piece of advice would you give to other professionals in the credit union movement?
A: Learn as much as you can, learn to listen well, and always lead by example.
Q: How can credit unions best serve their members from diverse backgrounds?
A: To effectively serve a diverse membership base, it’s necessary that you have a diverse team.
In spite of the effort we put into understanding the needs of other races and ethnic groups, unless we have diversity among our staff we will be limited by our similar experiences and world view and will likely lack the understanding to meet their needs.
Q: How do you promote diversity and inclusion within your organization or in your personal life?
A: We hire and promote based on merit, without bias, and make a genuine effort to ensure we have a diversified employee group that aligns with the diversity in our membership.