A lot of us have been focusing on the “I” in DEI lately. Very basic DEI training has taught us that it is not enough to just make space, but efforts must be made for people that have been traditionally left out to be included; to be part of; to be embraced and welcomed even though they have been there all along. In Michigan we have witnessed several examples of credit unions making efforts of inclusion for everyone. Inclusion, to me, means to notice and to embrace. Inclusion is the long game in DEI.
I attended my first, and I feel safe in saying not my last, Juntos Avanzamos —Together We Advance — proclamation honoring MSU Federal Credit Union this month. This designation, bestowed by our friends at inclusiv, recognized MSUFCU’s efforts to include and support the Latino community. At the ceremony in East Lansing, the efforts by MSUFCU to embrace this community, which has traditionally been underserved and left behind, was moving. What really stood out to me were the remarks from the Latino community on how important it was for them to have a place to bank that they are a “part of” instead of “left out.” The Latino community knows that at MSUFCU that they can find Spanish speaking representatives, Spanish forms and products and services with their needs in mind. The community was so moved, and emotions were so deep that some had a hard time speaking. I was honored to witness this declaration of inclusion.
Pride events happened around the state, and the world this month. Our league Facebook feed was full of our Michigan credit union team members showing their pride and allyship at events around the state. I was proud to see our community shine.
Also this month, I had the pleasure of sitting down with the President of the Credit Union Association of New Mexico, Juan Fernandez, for an interview on our league’s podcast. Juan talked about his state’s efforts to support a LGBTQ+ employment group – CU Shine. This group, who met for the first time in April, is made up of New Mexico credit union employees that are part of the LGBTQ+ community or are an ally. Juan detailed the first gathering and how much it meant to this group that, prior to the event, felt left behind. I wish I had been able to witness that gathering. I know I would have looked around at smiling, proud faces that felt seen and heard.
Another source of inclusion took place at our league’s annual convention in June where we held space and recognized our industry young professionals. We support two groups – FUEL and 906hYPe – both made up of young professionals from credit unions around the state. If you are a regular attendee of credit union conferences, you may have noticed that the audience is often made up of C-suite employees or board volunteers. Sometimes we carve out time and budget only for seasoned employees. But creating space and including our up-and-coming leaders has several benefits, least of which is helping educate them to advance in their careers. Including YPs and shining light on them gives them the feeling of being seen and heard. I am proud of our industry’s commitment to the YP movement.
Finally, through a mentoring program that I have been so proud to be part of, I was asked this month to write a recommendation letter for an African American credit union professional looking to advance her career. If not for this program, we would never have met, and I would not have come to know her over the last several months. By devoting the time to take part in a program that got me out of my comfort zone and let someone else into my professional circle, I was able to write several detailed reasons why her credit union should advance her to be included in the ranks of management. I hope she gets the job. For me, it was so nice to be asked to support her and be her advocate. Together, we advance.
There are so many ways to be inclusive and so many people who have been serving our industry with open arms for years. This is one of the many reasons I am proud to be part of this credit union family. My hope is that even more people step out and make the time to embrace those in our community that have not been traditionally part of their circle or footprint. Serving the underserved isn’t easy as traditional ways do not work. However, not only is such service in our DNA, expanding your footprint and circle to let others in has so many rewards. Least of which is pride.