CUES member CEO challenges the movement to step up.
Editor’s note: This blog is adapted from Ivey’s comments during two panel sessions at the CU Pride Leadership Conference 2023.
I get asked a lot, “In the political climate that we’re in, how do you manage being the president of the board of the LGBT Chamber of Commerce in San Antonio, Texas?”
And I’ll be honest, it’s not always easy. Unfortunately, the San Antonio LGBT Chamber of Commerce doesn’t just have to deal with business issues like such a chamber is supposed to do, it also must deal with political and social issues.
When the organization’s leaders asked me to be president, I said, “Okay, I’m in my late 50s. I’m a straight white guy. You want me to lead this chamber?” And the reply was, “Well, we need more allies, having you in that role may help convince others to step up.”
My message to the larger San Antonio community and to credit unions about my LGBT Chamber leadership is: “You have customers that are members of this community, you have employees that are members of this community, and don’t you want to support them? I could give examples of several great employees who have left companies because the culture that existed made it difficult to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community and be eligible for job promotions.
“And don’t you want your business to grow?” I’ll add. “Being an ally to the LGBTQ+ community can help you with that.”
Serving the Underserved
River City Federal Credit Union is a CDFI—a community development financial institution—but credit unions in general talk about serving the financially underserved.
The LGBTQ+ community is underserved. Many times, members of the community are not living below the poverty line, but they still face obstacles to full financial freedom simply because they are members of the LGBTQ+ community. They’ve been turned away by financial or other institutions or not promoted at work or not embraced by their communities.
As a credit union CEO, I think about how I can serve all my members. How does our credit union serve the Latino community? How do we serve the Asian community? How do we serve the African American community? The same question applies to the LGBTQ+ community. Everybody should be on equal footing.
I challenge every credit union leader to find those organizations in your communities that support LGBTQ+ businesses, individuals and households. Find them, support them, become members, donate and volunteer your time.
I can tell you that a credit union joining an LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce as River City FCU has done is going to make a big difference because there are not a lot of financial institutions taking such steps. When River City FCU joined the LGBT chamber, we were the only credit union member and there was only one other bank. Serving on the organization’s board or joining one of its committees means you can have a huge impact.
Plus, if you’re in a leadership position at your organization, those kinds of actions are going to resonate with the rest of your staff and show people they can do the same kinds of things.
I also was recently elected to serve on the Inclusiv board, which represents CDFIs and minority deposit institutions nationwide. At Inclusiv, we believe that true financial inclusion and empowerment is a fundamental right. We dedicate ourselves to closing the gaps and removing barriers to financial opportunities for people living in distressed and underserved communities.
Allyship Is Not Without Challenges
Bills are pending at the state level right now that would be damaging to the LGBTQ+ community if enacted. Fortunately, in San Antonio, we’ve got a very receptive and open city government. Our mayor has been amazing in his support for the LGBTQ+ community and in promoting equality for all citizens.
But my bottom-line advice is: No matter where you are, don’t be silent. Be an ally.
To be very candid, I’ve lost some friends because of what I’m doing, to which my wife says, “Tough. You know, they weren’t your friends to begin with.”
And I think as those things happened, it just reinforced for me that I’m doing the right thing. Advocating for equal rights for all people can be disruptive, but the credit union industry is a movement. And this is part of that movement. It’s a very important and critical part of the movement that we support this community and that we are putting our money where our mouth is.