Article

Diversity Insight: What Can One Employer Do to Confront Racism During a Global Pandemic?

diverse business people put puzzle pieces together
By Lynn Heckler

4 minutes

Quite a lot, it turns out. Here are three things one CUSO did.

Recently, conversations around diversity and equality have become daily happenings in a way unseen since the civil rights movement of the 1960s. As a result, credit union leaders have begun considering numerous questions, including “What can a single employer do to confront systemic racism during a global pandemic?” and “How can we help promote racial equality while also supporting employees through the COVID-19 crisis?”

After some thoughtful consideration and collaboration, it turns out we can do quite a bit. Due to a shared commitment to the credit union philosophy of “people helping people,” credit unions and their partners—such as credit union service organizations like PSCU—are uniquely positioned to make a difference in many ways.

1. Form a Space for Meaningful Conversation and Authenticity

At PSCU, we believe that a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion strengthens the company. By inviting a diverse range of experiences and valuing those differences, employees can bring their whole selves to the workplace. It has been proven that employees are more successful and engaged when they feel their uniqueness and authenticity are embraced at work—this drives innovation, collaboration, and the attraction and retention of a high-performing workforce. This commitment is more important than ever in today’s social environment.

We knew it was critical for PSCU’s leaders to not only make initial position statements to employees with regard to racial injustice, but that we also needed to create a safe space for employees to collaboratively engage on the subject. Providing a platform for their voices to be heard was a top priority, as well as ensuring this positioning extended externally to reach our partners, potential employees, Owner credit unions and other stakeholders.

A partnership with the African-American Credit Union Coalition is a great place to start for credit unions looking to drive meaningful conversations and provide resources at the industry level. In collaboration with Sankofa, PSCU’s African-American employee resource group, PSCU partnered with the AACUC for a company-wide “Commitment to Change” webinar series in June.

Almost 600 employees attended the webinars, which were offered as hour-long presentations over two days. Employees took a genuine interest in addressing topics like systemic racism and unconscious bias, and an opportunity to raise questions to a panel of speakers in an open format. The program also provided an opportunity to explore what PSCU as an organization can do better when it comes to strengthening diversity and inclusion, including within leadership development and recruiting. All of these aspects have a strong impact on not only creating a diverse workforce and leadership team, but also maintaining it for years to come.

2. Develop a Strategy and Help it Thrive

In addition to the webinars, PSCU also moved quickly to provide resources to leaders and assist them in facilitating courageous conversations about racism, confronting such topics as demonstrating empathy, fostering psychological safety, promoting inclusive leadership and being a proactive ally. In partnership with its employee assistance provider, our CUSO also assembled resources to assist with mental health and well-being and made them available to all employees.

PSCU is simultaneously accelerating its diversity, equity and inclusion strategy across the enterprise. It has taken a leadership role in industry initiatives such as the CU DEI Collective, which believes “diversity, equity and inclusion are fundamental to a vibrant, relevant and growing credit union movement, and is good business.” As a founding member, PSCU supports the CU DEI Collective’s statement of commitment and solidarity with the African-American and Black community, with organizations involved pledging to fight together against systemic oppression and racism.

3. Maintain Engagement

It is critical for everyone to actively take part in the conversation and look for ways to stay informed and engaged. There are times when we may feel unsure of how to help, but one of the simplest things we can do as individuals and as companies is to be willing to listen with true empathy—and learn. We are in uncharted territory and, while we do not have all of the answers, we do have the ability to adjust and change our course. The next few month—or years—will be an evolutionary process for the industry and nation as a whole. These conversations may not always be easy, but they are truly necessary if we are to find a way to heal and continue to move our industry forward.

Lynn Heckler has served as EVP/chief talent officer of CUESolutions provider PSCU, St. Petersburg, Florida, since May 2011. Since joining PSCU in 2001, Heckler has shared her passion for creating a culture of inclusion, leadership development and engagement in the workplace, advancing PSCU’s initiatives for inclusion and diversity, women’s leadership, learning and organizational development, corporate insurance, facilities and more.

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