Be Better. Do Better: Credit union leaders discuss DEI


Published 3.18.21

Earlier this week, HCUA and the African-American Credit Union Coalition (AACUC) hosted the second of a two-part webinar to candidly discuss how credit union leaders can do better in their DEI journeys, for themselves and for their credit unions. If you missed it, watch the Be Better. Do Better Part 2 recording.

Renee Sattiewhite, president/CO of AACUC moderated the discussion. Panelists included seasoned professionals from credit unions:

  • Larry Sewell, vice president of community outreach, Together Credit Union
  • Maria J. Martinez, CEO, Border Federal Credit Union
  • Kirk D. Mills, CEO, St. Louis Community Credit Union
  • Michelle Wood, chief culture & diversity and inclusion officer, Mazuma Credit Union

The hour-long conversation was full of inspiration and insight and sometimes emotional and uncomfortable experiences.

Here are four takeaways from the discussion: 

1. Be comfortable with being uncomfortable.

The panel discussed the first steps for credit unions beginning or expanding their DEI journey, including having conversations with your team (ask questions and listen), form a group or send a survey. Get out of your comfort zone and ensure you are listening to different voices and viewpoints. Take a look around the room during your next meeting. Who's missing?   

2. Don't let assumptions about you dictate how you feel about yourself or others.  

People may make assumptions about you based on how you look, your orientation and more. Panelists suggested not giving up on people and digging beneath the surface and figuring out why they feel a certain way based on those assumptions. You may be able to connect with the very people who judged you.

3. Expand your circle of human concern.  

As not-for-profit financial institutions, credit unions have the unique structure to do financial inclusion work better than others. Panelists asked if credit unions can do more and how they can be on the forefront of demographic shifts. Several resources were mentioned regarding this: 

4. Progress in DEI at credit unions. 

Credit unions are making strides in their DEI journeys. Here are a few examples:

  • Tracking metrics, especially regarding hiring, promotions, etc. Review with board at least annually and keep DEI at the forefront of everyone's minds.
  • DEI councils that include staffers from all areas of the credit union. Commit to transparency and valuing people. 
  • Work with and towards meeting the needs of your members, despite their socioeconomic status.
  • Credit union leaders taking the CEO action pledge.

This is just a high-level summary. We encourage you to watch the full recording.