Each of us brings unique experiences, beliefs, perspectives and skills to the workplace –and when all voices are heard within an organization, innovation happens.
This is a paradigm I have witnessed time and again throughout my career. And I am gratified to be working within a dynamic, inclusive company and industry that share this fundamental value system.
CO-OP Financial Services has always been a place where individuals from diverse backgrounds and mindsets unite, collaborate and thrive. Recently, CO-OP further strengthened its commitment to the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion by sponsoring a vitally important industry organization, the African-American Credit Union Coalition (AACUC).
Expanding AACUC’s Reach
CO-OP’s corporate sponsorship of the AACUC is a five-year commitment to the organization. Through the sponsorship, CO-OP will work closely with the AACUC to help develop and promote the coalition’s events and initiatives in service to individuals and communities industrywide.
The primary focus of the partnership will be advancing the AACUC’s educational, mentoring and professional development initiatives, ensuring that as many deserving professionals as possible have access to these valuable resources.
CO-OP’s sponsorship will expand the organization’s reach within the CO-OP community as well. Complimentary AACUC memberships will be available for selected CO-OP employees and credit union affiliates, and complimentary registrations for representatives to attend AACUC events will be offered as well, starting with this year’s AACUC Annual Virtual Conference, planned for August 16-21.
CO-OP will also leverage the sponsorship to uncover new opportunities to recruit talented people into the credit union movement. In particular, CO-OP recognizes the need to attract younger professionals to our industry. CO-OP and the AACUC are already working together to ensure that career advancement and leadership development opportunities are readily available to all.
AACUC: Advocacy, Advancement, Achievement
According to its mission, the AACUC strives “to increase diversity within the credit union community through advocacy and professional development.” Since its inception in 1999, the AACUC initiatives and partnerships have transformed the lives and careers of many.
In addition to promoting the personal and professional growth of members, the AACUC offers its partners and affiliates unique opportunities to influence and shape the movement’s governmental affairs.
The organization’s goals are achieved in a number of ways. For example, the AACUC performs advocacy for legislation in support of its members’ needs and causes. The organization also offers mentoring and technical assistance to individual members and member credit unions alike. Each year, the AACUC provides both scholarships and internship opportunities for students of historically black colleges and universities as well.
By providing educational support, professional development and networking opportunities to both members and potential members, the AACUC continues to cultivate new generations of leaders who are advancing our industry culturally, technologically and creatively – and strengthening the communities we serve as a result.
I’ve been fortunate to be involved with the AACUC for more than four years, during which time I have represented CO-OP at the annual AACUC conferences and as a member of the AACUC Board of Directors.
As the Western States representative to the Board, I have provided insights and guidance on how diversity, equity and inclusion are viewed in the region. I also helped launch AACUC’s Western Regional Chapter, which continues to grow.
Today I serve as a frequent panelist for AACUC events, which allows me to share my personal views and experiences in ways that raise awareness for the AACUC mission, spark important conversations about equity in the workplace and inspire others to get involved.
CO-OP’s DE&I Council
CO-OP’s sponsorship of the AACUC speaks to the company’s own values and mission, and follows a number of recent diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives that reflect CO-OP’s commitment to ensuring equity in the workplace.
Perhaps the most significant CO-OP initiative to date has been the formation of its DE&I Council, an organization-wide resource for employees committed to recognizing both the challenges faced by diverse communities and their many contributions to our nation and industry.
The DE&I Council spreads its message of inclusion through company events, trainings, educational blog posts and other platforms available to all employees. Celebration of notable holidays and designated months, such as Black History Month, further raise awareness among employees for the important role diverse communities play in our professional and personal lives.
The Council has also begun forming Engagement Resource Groups (ERGs), which are open to all but focused on specific employee communities who share common backgrounds and life experiences. ERGs that are currently in consideration for formation are the African-American group, women in technology, LGBTQ+ employees and veterans.
Time to Answer the Call
As a company and an industry, we have come a long way to deliver on the promise of inclusive policies and practices. Yet, there remains much work to be done. It is important for all of us to get involved and engaged in our communities both professionally and personally to advocate for change.
The strides we make today will open doors for deserving individuals tomorrow and lead to a stronger, healthier and more innovative credit union industry for years to come.
Dorthy Mack is Director, Client Strategist – Debit Networks, for CO-OP Financial Services (www.coop.org), a provider of payment and financial technology to credit unions. She is also the Co-Chair of the company’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Council.