Prioritize DEI efforts

The credit union movement works toward diversity, equity, and inclusion.

July 15, 2020

Important conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are occurring in many workplaces. The credit union movement has taken its own steps to advance the discussion and commit to DEI practices and principles.

“Together we have to reprogram our culture to be inclusive to everyone,” says John Bissell, CEO of $1.3 billion asset Greylock Federal Credit Union in Pittsfield, Mass. “This is a matter of survival. If you’re not creating a more inclusive culture, your credit union is on a road to extinction.”

To learn more about DEI, start with recent CUNA News coverage:

  • DEI is central to COVID-19 response. Our work to advance DEI is needed now more than ever to help vulnerable members and staff weather the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, says Samira Salem, senior policy analyst for CUNA. When there’s a crisis, society’s most vulnerable tend to be hit the hardest. Black, Brown, Indigenous, and low-income people are among the most vulnerable to the COVID-19 crisis. "Our cooperative values, people-helping-people philosophy, and democratic structure mean our success is bound up in that of our members," says Salem. "Ultimately, all will benefit when we work to support the most vulnerable."
  • PODCAST: DEI an 'ongoing journey.' As organizations advance their DEI efforts, new challenges arise. “It’s an ongoing journey,” says Sheila Milton, director of cultural competency and inclusion at $3.3 billion asset UW Credit Union in Madison, Wis. “We’ve done a lot to set ourselves up for the future, but as you go from year to year, it becomes even more challenging. DEI never ends.” Milton explains the steps UW Credit Union is taking to address DEI, why credit unions need to engage in DEI efforts, and why it’s important to involve all employees in DEI efforts.
  • Billboard message transcends COVID-19 to racism. In March, UW Credit Union deployed a billboard to support the community during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The billboard was due to be replaced, but when crews went to remove it, they found a graffiti artist had spray painted “George Floyd” over the bottom third of the billboard. "I was just struck by how the graffiti artists chose the message and added George Floyd to it,” says Anne Norman, chief marketing officer at the $3.3 billion asset credit union. “And then it transcended the COVID-19 pandemic to the current conversation about racism and social justice.”
  • CUNA joins CU DEI Collective as founding organization. CUNA announced it is a founding organization of the Credit Union Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Collective, a group within the credit union movement devoted to furthering DEI, a shared cooperative principle. The collective launched Friday, June 19, or Juneteeth, the day commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S. "Our mission is to bring forth social, economic, political, and legal justice for combating centuries of violent oppression and systemic racism everywhere,” reads part of the collective’s mission statement.
  • DEI: 'Lean in before you lead.' Angela Russell, CUNA Mutual Group’s vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion, says the work of DEI is to remove social and institutional inequities that create disparities in outcomes for different communities. By “peeling back the onion” on these disparities, “what we most often find is institutional inequities,” she says. Russell addressed a CUNA Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion e-School offered as a free member benefit.
  • Inclusion: 'A matter of survival.' To successfully implement a DEI culture and mindset, Bissell of Greylock Federal says the effort must start with the CEO, board of directors, and senior management. He suggests making this a top priority by looking at your community’s demographic data and creating a strong business case. “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable,” he says. “You’ll need to re-examine a lot of things about yourself, internal biases, and views on gender, race, and money.”