Answers to five frequently asked questions about this group, plus an invitation to share your experience
As we start a new decade, business leaders in every industry—including the credit union movement—are realizing the importance of creating diverse and inclusive workplaces. While promoting the necessity of diversity and inclusion will always be a part of the puzzle, many of us have shifted to focus on exploring and implementing best practices.
I’m often asked about my position as the community inclusion manager at Veridian Credit Union. My colleagues at other credit unions are interested in how my position came to be, the structure of our team, our duties and our measurements. This isn’t because I have all the answers or because Veridian CU is some perfect, aspirational model. It’s because we’re all becoming more intentional about fostering diversity and inclusion in our memberships, staff, boards and communities. We’re exploring together and learning from each other.
To help fuel that growth, I’ll use this column to share my answers to the questions I receive most frequently. Then I’d love to hear yours.
Q: What led to the creation of Veridian CU’s community inclusion team?
The manager of community inclusion position was created in 2010 at the recommendation of what is now our Inclusion Council. Veridian CU has a long history of celebrating diversity and promoting inclusion. Our employee-led Inclusion Council wanted to ensure that we’re intentional and strategic about our efforts. That led to the creation of my position, and it’s been the focus of my work ever since.
Q: What best prepared you for a career of promoting diversity and inclusion?
I worked as a member service representative at a Veridian CU branch in Waterloo, Iowa, while attending Wartburg College. When I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education, I left the CU and worked in higher education for 12 years, helping underrepresented students achieve a college education. I earned my master’s degree in education in 2010 and returned to Veridian CU as the manager of community inclusion in the spring of 2011.
Q: What is the structure of your team, and what are some of your team’s primary responsibilities?
We’re a four-person team, including two community inclusion coordinators, one community inclusion strategist and me. Each member of our team is regionally based in communities across our field of membership. This allows us to be locally accessible and active in our communities. I work from the same office as our executive team in Waterloo, Iowa, and report directly to our CEO.
The primary role of our community inclusion team is to work with departments across the credit union and build relationships in our communities to ensure we’re reaching the underserved and helping them create a successful financial future. That work often takes the form of community investments (such as sponsorships, donations and grants), financial literacy and specialty products like individual development accounts and individual tax identification numbers. We also oversee products and projects related to Veridian CU’s certification from the U.S. Treasury as a community development financial institution, which led to the creation of our community inclusion mortgage last year.
Q: What do you define and measure success?
As an industry, credit unions haven’t yet defined a universal benchmark for success in diversity and inclusion. At Veridian CU, we monitor our member, employee and community demographics and aim to mirror the communities we serve—Including marketing, lending practices and more. We look for gaps in that representation and seek opportunities to address them.
Our communities are becoming more diverse—by age, ethnicity, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation and more. When we accurately represent our communities, we create a more inclusive environment where everyone feels valued—like they belong. It also makes us more effective at serving our members. We can better anticipate their needs and are better equipped to help them overcome barriers.
Q: What are some of your most effective strategies?
In diversity and inclusion work, community service is an invaluable way to be impactful and stay relevant. We’re building relationships while keeping a pulse on the unique needs of our communities. We look for opportunities to volunteer in leadership roles wherever we can play a part in serving the underserved in our communities, including organizations focused on economic inclusion and minority advocacy.
There’s also a growing schedule of conferences and other events focused diversity and inclusion, and we make them a priority—not only as a team, but as a credit union. Diversity and inclusion is something that’s never 100% achieved or complete. Our communities, members and staff are constantly evolving. There will always be more to learn and more to do.
I’d love to hear from you and talk more about how to make our credit unions a more diverse workplace and inclusive financial partner in 2020. Please reach out at AngelaMW@VeridianCU.org.
Angela Weekley is community inclusion manager for $4.3 billion Veridian Credit Union, Waterloo, Iowa.