The organization has successfully supported credit union LGBTQ+ individuals, educated allies and change agents, and joined in the industry’s larger DEI effort.
I’ve been in the credit union industry for more than 22 years. Throughout those years, I’ve been searching for all kinds of diversity … diversity of thought, action, operations, ethnicity, community, sexual orientation and so on. It’s just what I do, and have done, my entire life.
I have long asked myself questions like: “Where are all of the _____ in credit unions?” and “Why don’t I see _____ in credit unions?" But the big question for me has been, “Where are all of the out and open LGBTQ+ CEOs?” Secondarily, I’d ask myself, “Where are all the LGBTQ+ credit union employees, conference presenters and others in the industry? Why are people still silent or in the closet? Or maybe the credit union industry just doesn’t have any of these people?” Just kidding on that last one.
Over and over, for far too long, I also asked myself, “Why hasn’t someone started a group for the LGBTQ+ community within credit unions?”
I’ve learned over time that if you keep asking the same question, you need to “just do it” or stop asking. In early 2020, it was time. I found some like-minded folks, and we banded together to see what we could do to make our LBGTQ+ population visible and have a voice in our industry.
CU Pride officially formed in February 2020 in Washington, D.C. During our first, very informal meeting, we connected with a group of about 30 LGBTQ+ people and allies. I was amazed at the number of folks interested in the movement as well as the number of out people in the credit union industry. It was exciting, refreshing and warm. Finally, we had our people, we had each other, and we had a community of love surrounding us.
We started planning right away, but I think we all know what happened right after that date. The pandemic. In some ways it was good, and in many ways it was bad. We didn’t let it stop the momentum of our group. We hosted the first-ever virtual CU Pride event on June 19, 2020. More than 250 people registered. It was amazing and one of the best Zoom programs many of us had ever attended.
CU Pride continued moving forward. We developed our four tenets for CU Pride:
- Create a network and promote visibility of LGBTQ+ individuals in the credit union industry
- Provide a safe but brave place for communion and discussion
- Create a forum for allies and social change agents
- Promote inclusivity and consciousness through programs, education and networking
We began hosting monthly happy hours and covered some deep topics during each gathering:
- The importance of pronouns
- How do credit unions better support the transgender community?
- How are you creating a place and culture of inclusion and belonging at your organization?
These happy hours have been wonderful. We connected with people from all over the country, big and small credit unions, credit union service organizations and others closely affiliated with credit unions. We learned how organizations support their LGBTQ+ employees and members as well as the fact that credit union size really doesn’t make a difference. The difference is in the commitment of the credit union or organization to LGBTQ+ inclusion. Support from the top is crucial to making these initiatives successful.
CU Pride is taking the reins and hosting the first-ever credit union LGBTQ+ leadership conference in June 2021. During each weekly session, we’ll talk about some important topics in our industry and bring together subject matter experts to support credit unions and their teams:
- Inclusive marketing and member engagement
- Embracing diversity and your authentic self
- Equity in human resources and governance
- Mental health: recognition and support
Today CU Pride has more than 700 active members and 175 credit unions and related organizations. We are also part of the CU DEI Collective. This seat at the table will represent all of us and ensure we have a positive impact on DEI initiatives going forward.
I’m personally blown away by the love, support and genuine care from everyone in this group. We have a new network of friends and allies, and there’s no more asking that question, “Where are all the LGBTQ+ people in our industry?” We’ve finally found each other. Our voices will continue to grow louder and prouder in our credit unions, memberships and the entire credit union industry.
Linda Bodie is CEO/innovator of $53 million Element Federal Credit Union, Charleston, West Virginia.