Diversity Insight: Interior Federal’s Award-Winning Journey Toward an Inclusive Workplace

workplace diversity concept
By Naysa Manik

4 minutes

Leadership commitment, hiring practices and education all play key roles.

In a rapidly changing world, organizations must embrace diversity, equity and inclusion more than ever. Across various industries, companies are realizing the importance of cultivating a workplace that represents diverse backgrounds, perspectives and experiences. 

At Interior Federal Credit Union, Washington, D.C., we have learned that dedicating ourselves to DEI is not only a significant key to our success, but also crucial for fostering innovation and creativity. Promoting DEI and valuing the unique talents and perspectives of all team members also fosters a sense of belonging among our employees, leading to better decision-making and higher morale and productivity. 

Our credit union’s commitment to DEI was honored in January 2024 with the Inclusive Workplace award by the Best Companies Group, recognizing our proactive initiatives to establish a diverse and inclusive work environment.

Our focus on DEI at Interior Federal began in the summer of 2020 after the murder of George Floyd. The credit union recognized that embracing diversity goes beyond compliance. It is a necessity that unites and makes us stronger. 

Historically, financial institutions have perpetuated structural racism, also known as systemic racism, defined as policies and practices that exist throughout a whole society or organization that result in and support a continued unfair advantage to some people and unfair or harmful treatment of others based on race or ethnic group. 

At Interior Federal, we are committed to proactively dismantling and preventing structural racism within our sphere of influence, aiming to improve the lives of our members and people within our community. Our organization’s vision is to reach financial freedom for this and future generations, and we are dedicated to achieving this long-term goal by creating a workplace culture that reflects the diverse communities it serves. Interior Federal defines financial freedom as the state in which a member has achieved a level of financial stability and security that allows them to comfortably meet their financial obligations, pursue their goals and enjoy their desired quality of life without being burdened by excessive debt, financial stress or dependence on others.

Leadership Commitment

A significant part of Interior Federal’s DEI initiative is the unwavering commitment from its leadership. Our senior leaders actively advocate for the cause, demonstrating that DEI is not a standalone initiative but an integral part of the organization. To ensure they maintain this commitment, the senior leaders and members of the board worked together in 2020 to create a DEI committee. This committee serves as a proactive force, working to implement strategies that promote diversity, equity and inclusion throughout the organization. 

The committee’s dedication for ongoing DEI education is evident through various initiatives, such as annually circulating DEI-related books among managers and hosting discussion groups. Additionally, they have arranged for annual DEI training from professionals for both the board and staff, signed the DEI Collective pledge. Our SVP, Kimberly McCallum, SHRM-SCP earned an executive certificate in diversity, equity and inclusion from Georgetown University and has participated in the African-American Credit Union conference

Inclusion in Hiring

Recognizing that the journey toward diversity begins with the hiring process, Interior Federal has implemented inclusive hiring strategies to mitigate bias and ensure fair hiring. Some of these strategies include partnering with to promote our openings to diversity sites, adopting a diverse interviewing panel approach where final interviews are conducted by at least two individuals from different racial or gender backgrounds, conducting phone screens to reduce bias in the first interview process, participating in career fairs and recruiting at historically Black colleges and universities, and collaborating with the Department of Interior employee resource groups to get connected to underprivileged groups. These initiatives ensure that our recruitment processes actively seek out candidates from diverse backgrounds that are often underrepresented. 

Ongoing Learning

However, creating an inclusive workplace goes beyond hiring a diverse workforce, it requires ongoing education and development efforts. Interior Federal invests in training programs that promote unconscious bias, effective communication across differences and other relevant topics. By providing employees with tools to navigate and appreciate diversity, the credit union fosters an environment where everyone can thrive. 

Interior Federal also recognizes that DEI is not confined to the workplace, it extends to the communities served. In 2023, our CU held workshops for such groups as the young adults of the Latin American Youth Center Conservation Corps at their headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, to promote financial literacy. Actively engaging with diverse groups allows our credit union to expand its reach and foster strong connections and trust with the members.  

Interior Federal’s DEI initiative is not just a program but a commitment to building a workplace and a community where everyone feels valued and included. As we continue our DEI journey, we serve as a model for other organizations looking to create positive change in the way they operate.

Naysa Manik is marketing coordinator of $301 million Interior Federal Credit Union, Reston, Virginia, a member-owned and -run financial institution committed to empowering its members through nationwide service that meets their diverse needs.

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