Good Governance: A Case Study in Board Diversity Education 

diverse hands together
Shelly Berryman Photo
VP/Board and Committee Relations
SchoolsFirst FCU

5 minutes

Diversity and inclusion play an important role in enhancing decision-making.

CUES caught up with Shelly Berryman to learn about SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union’s efforts to educate its top leadership—its board members—about diversity, equity and inclusion. Berryman is VP/board and committee relations of $29 billion SchoolsFirst FCU, Tustin, California.

Q. What is included in the overall learning and development plan for the members of the board of SchoolsFirst FCU?

A. As educators, our board members have a natural thirst for learning. We have a robust annual training schedule for directors that includes regulatory training and continuing education requirements. In addition to their monthly board meetings, the board meets twice a year for strategic planning. Diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging is a topic that has a place on their agendas. This includes ongoing, robust learning and meaningful discussions on how we can continuously move forward for the advancement of our members, team, volunteers and the credit union. 

Additionally, the board conducts a bi-annual gap analysis to identify training needs for individual board members and offers development options to fill knowledge gaps. Directors understand that it is imperative to stay informed of important topics facing financial services, the credit union and our members. 

Q. What is the history of the commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging of the board members of SchoolsFirst FCU?

A. SchoolsFirst FCU has a long-standing commitment to a culture of diversity and inclusion for its members and team. Directors’ commitment includes strategies and policies, as well as a plan of continuous understanding of the vital role DEIB plays in the success of our members, team, themselves and the credit union. The board’s DEI committee brings in outside experts to have robust, meaningful conversations to cement their accountability to DEIB. 

Q. What has the board been doing most recently to enhance its knowledge and ability to act on DEIB? 

A. The board has engaged in several activities to create an open, welcoming environment that allows the credit union team to bring their best selves to work. This not only results in a more engaged workforce, but one that is open to more inclusive ideas. 

Some of the activities include diversity for inclusive board governance training, conducting a DEI governance audit and including DEIB topics at each planning session. 

We’ve invited DEIB specialists from both inside and outside the credit union movement to speak to our volunteers over the years. They’ve shared their approaches to DEIB to help our board gain additional perspectives. 

A recent survey of the board, specific to DEI training, resulted in an overwhelming desire to continue to seek out learning opportunities so they can promote and embed an inclusive culture within themselves and the credit union. 

Renee Hendrick
Renee Hendrick
SchoolsFirst FCU
asset size — $29 billion
Living our DEI Promise is essential to us creating a culture where our members and team have the opportunity to thrive. The board is committed to creating a credit union where all members and team members feel welcome, respected, accepted and valued. We believe that diversity makes our organization stronger and more innovative.

Q. What is the goal of the board’s DEIB efforts? What have been the benefits of your work in this area so far? 

A. The goal is to continually ensure our members and team feel included, heard and that the credit union is a place they can thrive. To do this well, the board must continue to learn and grow themselves. As many have said, and we agree, DEIB is a journey of continuous learning, growing and improving. It’s not simply setting a goal or reaching a metric; it takes hard work and concentrated focus along with deliberate actions. 

Thus far, this has created an environment and culture more attuned to the diverse and rich cultures among our members and team members. We’ve developed a keener awareness of the value each team member can bring to help us transform to an environment where our members and team feel included and have financial well-being. We are also seeing more innovation, collaboration and engagement—helping all involved feel more valued for their talents and empowered to reach their full potential.

The board authorized the creation of a senior vice president of DEI. This individual is responsible for crafting organizational strategies, programs and policies that champion DEI while ensuring our DEI Promise and practices harmonize seamlessly with our mission and values. Working together with the board, the benefits are endless.

Nina Boyd
Nina Boyd
DEI Committee Chairperson
SchoolsFirst FCU
asset size — $29 billion
Diversity and inclusion play an important role in improving and enhancing decision-making within the board and credit union. The board is committed to putting the hard work into living our DEI Promise and being intentional to ensure success of our vision of member service and financial well-being for all.

Q. What are the next steps for board learning overall and for DEI learning in particular?

A. The board is committed to bringing DEI strategies forward that will have a positive impact on our members, team, the board and the credit union. 

Board members will engage with DEIB experts, seek resources for personal and professional development, monitor and review governance practices and make improvements where necessary. They are also committed to looking at themselves to ensure that as the credit union continues to grow, they continue to be a reflection of the membership. 

Boards have a vital role in building an inclusive organization and to govern in ways that put the credit union on a meaningful path that results in a larger, more diverse talent pool. A team of people who feel included and accepted is more engaged and productive and can bring forward diverse ideas that can lead to greater innovation and creativity, all in the name of delivering world-class personal service and helping our members and team have financial well-being.

CUES member Shelly Berryman, CUDE, joined $29 billion SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union in 2003, where she’s held a variety of positions, including her current position as VP/board and committee relations. She has proudly worked in the credit union movement for more than 30 years. Berryman is a Credit Union Development Educator and a graduate of Western CUNA Management School and Filene i3. She's served on the RMJ Foundation Board and SoCal/NV CUES Board, among others. She holds CUNA’s Certified Credit Union Board Member and Supervisory Committee designations and is a graduate of the CUES Governance Leadership Institute.

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