As reported on creditunions.com, “The first black credit unions were established in the 1920s and 30s in the same vein as the credit union movement as a whole; the goal was to help poor farmers and urban groups move toward economic self-sufficiency.”
As the civil rights movement progressed in America, the article continues, the proliferation of black credit unions progressed accordingly.
“Diversity and equality are ideals underpinning our very mission as credit unions,” said Dorthy Mack, Sr. vice president, Northwest division executive for CO-OP Financial Services. “It is so importance for us all to recognize Black History Month and the many contributions that African Americans have made to this country. As we honor these achievements, we need to also reflect on how diverse perspectives enable growth and engagement for everyone.”
In fact, time has proven that the more diverse perspectives we as a credit union community bring to the discussion, the more informed and innovative our solutions become – and the better we serve members.
According to Adrianne Adufutse, sales enablement manager for CO-OP, “When we think about race and gender, it is all about what we see. When we embrace diversity, though, we think past the surface to understand individuals. We begin to tap into their unique experiences, perspectives, talents and aspirations, and that helps us deliver solutions and messages that resonate with our audiences.”
Creating an Inclusive Culture
So, how can credit unions foster a culture of inclusion and leverage diversity in service to members?
“We start by looking inside our own organizations and seeking ways to unify the workplace,” said Mack. “We set policies that validate and encourage the voices of all individuals, and we take the time to honor different cultures formally.”
As an example, she advises credit unions to display posters during Black History Month that speak to the achievements of African Americans. “Hold special lunches for employees throughout the year featuring authentic foods from different cultures,” she adds. “Make it fun, keep it real, and you will see relationships deepen naturally.”
Inclusion policies, she emphasizes, also teach teams not to tailor solutions to a single ethnic group. “A rewards program, for example, might look really attractive to one culture and not another,” she said. “When implemented with wisdom and empathy, inclusion policies provide the platform for great ideas to develop – which in turn allows organizations to deliver the best of the best.”
Supporting the AACUC
A new initiative near and dear to CO-OP is the establishment of the very first West Coast chapter of the African-American Credit Union Coalition (AACUC). Already a thriving force for good on the East Coast, the AACUC is committed to helping level the playing field for African Americans across the credit union industry by providing much-needed college scholarships, internships, professional development, advocacy and mentoring.
“Led by our team at CO-OP, the new West Coast AACUC chapter will open its doors this year, bringing all the benefits of this global organization to credit unions throughout the region,” said Mack.
As your credit union celebrates Black History Month, we invite you to support the AACUC as well, and help us advance its important mission to promote equality and opportunity for all.
“When diversity is embraced, the benefits are felt by everyone,” said Adufutse. “Individuals are empowered, creativity is unleashed, and organizations are stronger as a result.”
To learn more about the AACUC and to get involved, contact Dorthy Mack at firstname.lastname@example.org.