CUNA, Leagues, CUs work to incorporate DEI into fabric of CU system

February 7, 2020

It was nearly a year ago when then-CUNA Board Chairman Maurice Smith laid out his vision for an eighth principle in the cooperative movement: diversity and inclusion. Since then, CUNA has made numerous pushes to advance diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) both internally and as a leader within the credit union movement.

Smith, who has worked in credit unions for nearly four decades, said it’s a “natural value to uphold” as credit unions, who by their existence support the notion that “every member of a community has an inalienable right to exercise the doctrines presented in the cooperative principles.”

The CUNA Board of Directors soon passed a resolution in favor of establishing DEI as a credit union cooperative principle.

When it came time to elect a new board, CUNA started a recruitment committee to actively recruit diverse candidates for seats in which an incumbent is not seeking re-election.

CUNA also worked closely with the board of the National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International (NCBA CLUSA), which adopted a resolution on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) at its Co-op IMPACT Conference. CUNA Chief Operating Officer Jill Tomalin is on the NCBA CLUSA board, as are other league and credit union leaders.

Advancing DEI is also a strong priority in CUNA’s advocacy work. CUNA has written letters for the record for several Congressional hearings, outlining how CUNA, Leagues and credit union are committed to ensuring DEI continues to play a meaningful role at every level of the credit union system.

Other letters noted that credit unions, which have a long history of serving underserved and diverse communities, have an “explicit priority” to advance DEI, as it is investing in diverse populations that will ensure credit unions are representative of the communities they serve.

CUNA has also supported bipartisan legislation that would, among other things, bolster Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs). These include bills that would codify government programs to encourage MDI collaborations and encourage federal government deposits in MDIs.

Last fall, CUNA participated in NCUA’s DEI summit. CUNA Senior Policy Analyst Samira Salem and National Credit Union Foundation Chief Financial and Operations Officer Hannibal Brumskine both participated in panels, discussing ways to track DEI efforts and methods for recruiting, training and developing diverse talent, among other topics.

CUNA Chief Engagement Officer Greg Michlig, Deputy Chief Advocacy Officer Elizabeth Eurgubian, Media Relations Manager Lauren Williams and American Association of Credit Union Leagues Executive Director Brad Miller also attended the summit.

CUNA leaders have also participated in numerous interviews throughout the year on how and why to make DEI a priority in the credit union system, with CUNA President/CEO Jim Nussle and CUNA Board Chair Brett Martinez, speaking with CUToday about how to measure diversity, and Nussle discussing the importance of board diversity in a cover story for CEO Update.

Additionally, CUNA Board Member Teresa Freeborn, president/CEO of Xceed FCU, El Segundo, Calif., was joined by two colleagues on the CUNA News podcast to talk about ways they foster DEI at their credit union.

CUNA continues to work with stakeholders across the credit union movement to ensure that DEI is included at every level of the decision-making process, from serving credit union members, to recruiting and retaining talent. Nussle underscored this, saying that DEI is “part of a business model that says we get better decisions if we include multiple voices throughout our industry.”