Equity, idenyity, diversity, inclusion, belonging symbol Source: Shutterstock.

Credit unions looking for guidance as they create or refine a diversity, equity and inclusion strategy have a new resource to turn to: “Credit Unions Advancing Diversity, Equity & Inclusion,” a report released Tuesday by the Northwest Credit Union Association and Northwest Credit Union Foundation’s DEI Task Force.

Based on a review of DEI practices at credit unions across the country, the report is intended to support DEI work at credit unions in the Northwest, noted the NWCUA, which represents more than 170 credit unions in Oregon, Washington and Idaho. The task force is made up of 26 credit union professionals from across the region.

According to the report, the task force developed the recommendations while recognizing that DEI practices are unique to each credit union and community, and ensured they encompassed race, religion, gender, sexuality, age and historically disadvantaged groups. Racial equity “served as a backdrop and inspiration for the entire body of the task force’s work,” the report stated.

The groups also developed an online resource library for NWCUA members and is planning to launch an online discussion community centered around DEI-related topics.

“The task force worked tirelessly to discover, review and discuss the most effective DEI-related tools, practices and resources available,” NWCUA President/CEO Troy Stang said. “The recommendations celebrate the work credit unions have done and are doing to holistically serve their members and communities.”

Sharee Adkins, NWCUF’s executive director and a liaison to the task force, added, “Members of the task force recognize that DEI work is a long-term, non-linear journey. An effective commitment to DEI advances in stages and every credit union should determine its own path, desired outcomes and timeline.”

The task force divided its recommendations into three key areas – how credit unions can embrace DEI as employers, as financial institutions and as community partners. Below is a summary of the recommendations; the full report can be viewed here.

For Credit Unions as Employers

  • Conduct an assessment of where the credit union currently stands in regard to DEI, set DEI-related goals and develop an organization-wide DEI education plan.
  • Commit to ongoing DEI work for staff, such as collaborating with Select Employer Groups (if applicable) and other credit unions on DEI initiatives, and hiring or promoting a professional into a paid position that is responsible for DEI.
  • Create a DEI-focused Employee Resource Group or cross-functional team.
  • Encourage cultural competency by teaching employees about various cultural practices and events, inviting them to participate in local micro-communities or forming employee affinity groups.
  • Help develop the careers of employees from historically marginalized communities through mentorship/sponsorship programs and by providing career roadmaps.
  • Train hiring managers on unconscious bias and address potentially biased behavior.
  • Develop a plan for attracting and recruiting underrepresented job candidates, which may include evaluating the credit union’s brand messaging, reaching out to diverse groups and creating a referral program for underrepresented employees.

For Credit Unions as Financial Institutions

  • Research and gain a full understanding of the demographics of the credit union’s community, including members and potential members.
  • Develop a product and service design process that takes into account the needs of underserved communities. This should include establishing a product and service-focused DEI committee that includes leadership, partnering with other credit unions, seeking affiliations or certifications such as Juntos Avanzamos, and using alternative forms of credit scoring.
  • Implement strategies to diversify the vendors and suppliers working with the credit union.

For Credit Unions as Community Partners

  • Investigate the history of the credit union’s community, examine the credit union’s current relationships with the community’s organizations and small businesses, and communicate findings to employees.
  • Commit to serving the community by gaining buy-in from leadership and employees, and create a structured community engagement program that involves asking community partners how the credit union can help them.
  • View community partnerships through a lens of empathy, relationship-building and shared accountability. This can be achieved through actions such as choosing community partners whose mission aligns with the credit union’s, having credit union leaders join local non-profit boards and providing channels where community partners can publicly share their stories.