MD|DC Credit Union Association DEI speaker series: creating a more inclusive work environment

COLUMBIA, MD (April 9, 2021)

The MD|DC Credit Union Association’s third installment of its DEI Signature Speaker Series offered insight into how to build a more inclusive work environment for LGBTQ+ individuals.

CUNA Mutual Group’s Abby Churchill, who is also the Founder & Director of Trans Law Help Wisconsin, along with CU Pride Co-Founder Zach Christensen, shared how to let your credit union’s LGBTQ+ employees feel welcome, safe, heard, and valued.

Recognizing Diversity
Churchill points out that millennials are significantly more likely than older generations to identify as LGBTQ, making an inclusive workplace increasingly important. According to a GLAAD/Harris Poll, 20 percent of millennials identify as LGBTQ+, with 11 percent of those identifying as transgender.

To create a more supportive environment, Churchill says credit unions can begin by recognizing the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community, “We’re often talked about as being one group, when in fact the community is made up of many different communities with varying interests, political and religious beliefs and cultural backgrounds.”

Credit unions can help build a sense of community and belonging through Engagement Resource Groups (ERG). CUNA Mutual Group has more than a dozen staff-led ERGs, including Prism (LGBTQA), that enable employees with similar backgrounds, lifestyle and passions to connect as well as support business goals and help drive the company forward.

Pronouns in the Workplace
Using someone’s correct personal pronoun in the workplace helps ensure all people, regardless of their gender, feel like they belong. Some businesses are addressing the issue by utilizing personal pronouns in email signatures. Churchill points out that gender neutral pronouns like they/them/their are accepted as singular third-person pronouns and shares why being intentional with the use of pronouns matters, “It is one of the easiest ways to show support for transgender, nonbinary and gender non-conforming people is through honoring the use of their pronouns. It’s a way to respect them just like using a person’s name is a sign of respect.”

How to Make a Difference
Churchill suggests some additional actions credit unions can take to right now to be more inclusive:

• Be sure to include sexual orientation in your non-discrimination policies
• Avoid gendered language and making assumptions about someone’s spouse or partner
• Hire more LGBTQ+ staff
• Sponsor local LGBTQ+ organizations and events such as Pride parades

CU Pride
CU Pride, which was co-founded by Zach Christiansen in 2020, is helping make a difference. The organization has built a network within the credit union system to promote visibility and create a safe space for LGBTQ people and allies. “We are creating change, as small as it may be, as incremental as it may be – we are building change and we are creating a more inclusive environment.”

While significant progress has been made, including a 2020 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 includes protection from employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, Christiansen says there are still challenges. Data from the Movement Advance Project indicates that 70 percent of LGBTQ+ individuals live in states that still allow credit and lending discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Christensen says this is where credit unions can make a difference.

Providing a forum for an open discussion can also make a difference. Christensen recommends setting up rules of engagement and encouraging people to speak and ask questions. Here are a few things to keep in mind when starting a discussion:

  • Recognize these conversations are not easy.
    • Ensure it is a safe space.
    • Being uncomfortable means there is room to grow – Listen if you are unsure of what to say or how to contribute.

Christensen says being willing to invest the time to learn about the LGBTQ+ community can make you a stronger ally. “It allows you to increase your awareness of what we are going through and of the challenges that we face. It also creates a sense of love and belonging, which is all something we want.”

About MD|DC Credit Union Association

The MD|DC Credit Union Association is a regional trade association representing credit unions  and their 2.2 million members in Maryland and the DC region. The Association provides  advocacy, education and business solutions to credit unions which are not-for profit, member owned financial cooperatives.


Michelle Byrnie-Parker 

SVP/Chief Public Affairs Officer 

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