By Angela Russell, CUNA Mutual Group Chief Diversity Officer
Every new strategy starts with people. Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) strategy is the preeminent example of this business-transformation tenet. Unless leaders are first willing to look at themselves, no DEI initiative can move with the full force of the credit union.
Credit union executives may have an easier path to openness than most. However, confronting one’s own biases, beliefs and attitudes is difficult for anyone, let alone people known for being fearless. Yet, as more credit unions explore the need for multicultural business strategy, more leaders are looking to change that dynamic. One way these progressive change agents are doing this is by engaging in the Inclusion Institute through CUNA Mutual Group.
Prioritizing DEI from the Leadership Team Out
Throughout the six-week experience, credit union leaders participate in two-hours sessions to better understand the concepts of race and the history of racism in the U.S. Attendees grow in self-awareness and appreciation for DEI as a long-term commitment designed to bring about personal change as much as institutional change.
Hank Baum, CEO of Shelton, Conn.-based Mutual Security Credit Union, was among the first to take his leadership team through the Inclusion Institute. A 20-year veteran of financial services, Baum recognized a need to act as racial and economic disparities became more apparent.
Mutual Security had found success in programs to diversify its workforce. However, Baum says, it became evident during the national uprise around George Floyd’s murder that the equity and inclusion portion of their practices lacked attention. The leadership team needed stronger cohesion around the level of DEI prioritization.
“We were blown away starting from day one,” said Baum about the Inclusion Institute. “It was intense, uncomfortable, emotionally explosive, and yet healing at the same time. It far exceeded my expectations. My staff did not know what to expect, but each said they are happy they experienced it.”
Similarly, Maps Credit Union Chief People Officer Scott Sadler saw a need to help his Salem, Ore.-based leadership team align to the credit union’s evolving values. “We didn’t want check-the-box training,” said Sadler. “We chose right with the Inclusion Institute.
It rocked our world. We did some powerful work, and many times throughout the experience, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.”
Both Baum and Sadler encourage other credit union executives to engage with the Inclusion Institute. “It will fast forward your leadership and strategy like you won’t believe,” concluded Sadler. “There’s a significant change happening in the world. Riding the wave forward means owning mistakes and apologizing sometimes. The Inclusion Institute kickstarts the necessary conversations we all need to have.”
To learn more about the Inclusion Institute and the other DEI Services offered by CUNA Mutual Group, visit cunamutual.com/products/dei.