Embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is the right thing to do and brings undeniable value to credit unions.
DEI work is happening within the context of an increasing awareness of social and economic disparities faced by Black, brown, and Indigenous people; the LGBTQ+ community; women; and other traditionally underserved groups. There’s also structural racism; a history of racial injustice and violence against Black, brown, and Indigenous people; and significant demographic changes in the U.S.
DEI, while vital, is just one part of the work needed to bring about transformational and structural change in our nation. It’s in this environment that the credit union movement has committed to advance DEI.
The CUNA Board added DEI as a shared cooperative principle for America’s credit unions, recognizing that it deserves separate recognition and a distinct commitment on the part of the credit union movement to advance this priority.
At its most simplistic level, think of DEI as a three-legged stool that includes the values case, the business case, and the policy/regulatory case.
As cooperatives, credit unions are uniquely positioned within the financial services industry because we have a values case for DEI anchored in our cooperative principles and values of people helping people and serving all communities, including those traditionally underserved.
Plus, our structure—member-owned, democratically controlled, and not-for-profit—ensures credit unions’ success depends on the success of their members and communities.
In 2018, U.S. median household income reached an all-time high of $63,179, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But not all groups did equally well.
The median household income was $70,642 for white households, $51,450 for Hispanic/Latinx households, $41,361 for Black households, and $87,194 for Asian households. The sizable disparity in median income for Black and Hispanic/Latinx households compared to white households has persisted since the late 1960s, the Census Bureau reports.
These same groups also face significant wealth disparities. For example, the typical net worth of a white family ($171,000) is 10 times greater than that of a typical Black family ($17,150), according to the Federal Reserve. Similarly, women and LGBTQ+ people experience significant income and wealth disparities, and these disparities increase the likelihood of financial exclusion.
Credit unions were established to provide opportunities for financial inclusion to those excluded from the traditional financial system. Remaining true to our values in the context of a changing marketplace characterized by inequities in income, wealth, and access to quality financial services means being intentional about deepening DEI in our organizations.
This way, we can uncover barriers to financial inclusion and create more equitable financial services that help all members prosper.
NEXT: The business case