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Beyond Diversity: The Value and Impact of DEI for Credit Unions

If you attended Filene’s event this week: Beyond Diversity: The Value and Impact of DEI for Credit Unions, congratulations! You have begun your DEI journey. For anyone who missed this first event from Filene’s Center for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Filene Fellow Dr. Quinetta Roberson of Michigan State University hosted a convening of experts in DEI and credit union and system leaders to share research insights and stories as they strive to improve their organizations by making them more diverse, more equitable, and more inclusive.

“Beyond Diversity” encouraged participants to think beyond visible markers of diversity and to consider deeper elements of DEI that can support credit unions on their journeys towards making their organizations more diverse, equitable, and inclusive.

Think Forward

The opening and closing keynotes featured Dr. Quinetta Roberson and Dr. Derek Avery, both of whom emphasized that efforts towards diversity, equity, and inclusion work best when integrated into every aspect of your organizational strategy, from maintaining a diverse workforce, leveraging recruitment, marketing with an eye towards inclusion, and innovating products and services that tap into unserved needs. Organizations can begin to leverage the benefits and transformational power that DEI can offer through, for example, switching to identity-conscious human resource practices, providing integrated, systemic training and staff development, and making your member experience more inclusive.

Filene Fellow Dr. Quinetta Roberson kicking off Day 1.

Filene’s new Center for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is one place to find the latest in research specifically for credit unions, and where the latest DEI research from Fellow Quinetta Roberson is available. In her keynote, Dr. Roberson discussed how the corporate state of DEI has not changed since 2005. Moving forward requires that organizational leaders be transparent and develop accountability around DEI efforts. Inclusive skills can be learned, but they require practice and humility. Trust is a critical component to success. We all bring our own biases, limitations, and strengths. In Dr. Roberson’s words, “We need to get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.”

Change Lives

While some are only beginning their DEI journey, and others find themselves on various points along the route, we are fortunate to have long-standing partners who have paved the road before us. Leaders from the African American Credit Union Coalition, Coopera Consulting, and Inclusiv each shared stories of how they established their organizations to help advance DEI for credit unions, credit union professionals, and credit union members. Each was instrumental in the recent founding of the CU DEI Collective, created for credit unions and system partners to unite in an effort towards activating DEI and advancing the credit union system. Visit the CU DEI Collective to sign the pledge and signify your organization’s commitment to change

To best understand where your organization can join in on the journey, credit union benchmarks for DEI efforts around employees, members, and vendors are needed, and credit unions need to commit to collecting and sharing their data. There is no better time for credit unions to differentiate themselves from other financial services providers by demonstrating their commitment to DEI. If your credit union hasn’t yet completed the NCUA self-assessment survey, please start now!

Fireside chat with Filene Fellow Dr. Quinetta Roberson and Airbnb's Head of Global Diversity and Belonging, Melissa Thomas-Hunt

My favorite session was a fireside chat that Quinetta Roberson had with Airbnb’s Head of Global Diversity and Belonging, Melissa Thomas-Hunt, that focused on belonging, and how an organization can enhance employees’ sense of belonging, even when many staff are working remotely. Helping everyone feel connected benefits every aspect of your organization; productivity improves because people feel motivated and their sense of belonging helps drive positive outcomes. All the while, Melissa and Quinetta modeled warmth, and the value of skilled listening and relationship-building for enhancing the sense of belonging. By the end of the session, I know that I felt I belonged in Melissa’s living room.

Build a Better Future

An executive session led by Dr. Ella Washington of Ellavate Solutions walked attendees through the process of operationalizing DEI in their organizations. Different business archetypes in the DEI space provided context for how credit unions might differentiate themselves. Whether credit unions approach DEI as social justice crusaders in the style of Ben & Jerry’s, or find their stride as DEI Innovators like Proctor & Gamble, Dr. Washington made it clear that real change takes time, and that leaders should “resist the trap of quick wins” and remember that an organization’s DEI efforts will evolve and require adjustments.

Many actionable insights were shared on how to best integrate DEI into your credit union’s organizational strategy.

  • DEI starts at the top. Assess your leadership team’s capacity for change and consider the available pathways.
  • When it comes to DEI, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. First, take stock of your current organizational status, culture, and membership.
  • Find your why and identify your end goals.
  • Start where you are and don’t go it alone. Connect with colleagues and friends who are going through a similar journey. Find allies and build coalitions across your organization.
  • Use your organization’s strategic goals as the starting point for setting your DEI goals.
  • DEI often evokes personal responses and emotions; implicit bias should be addressed. Leaders and staff need time and support to better understand their beliefs and practices.
  • Mistakes happen! Expect them and build trust beforehand to offset missteps. Adopt a humble, learning stance.

Take Your Next Step

No matter where your credit union is on its DEI path, the time to leverage the benefits of DEI has arrived. The business case is clear, and the moral imperative echoes our cooperative principles and our mission of people helping people.


Filene is deeply appreciative for the support from Desert Financial Credit Union, SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union, State Department Federal Credit Union, Suncoast Credit Union, United Nations Federal Credit Union, UW Credit Union, Visions Federal Credit Union and Xceed Financial Federal Credit Union for the Center of Excellence for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.