Transforming Vizo Financial through DEI Initiatives
Everyone who works for and with Vizo Financial will be respected and accepted for who they are—especially those from under-represented groups. We will lead the industry with strategic partnerships and a workforce of diverse perspectives that is realizing its fullest potential and providing innovative solutions to meet the needs of credit unions.
For Vizo Financial to successfully fulfill this vision and lead the industry, we will strive to hire, retain and equitably promote a diverse workforce across all leadership levels that represents our member base and the communities we serve. – Vizo Financial’s DEI Vision Statement
Following the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement that summer, Vizo Financial’s executive leadership began discussing specific actions that we could take to truly live our commitment to the eighth and newest cooperative principal for credit unions – diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) – and create an inclusive workplace where employees, members and other business partners feel that they belong.
We began by creating an initial working document to identify exactly what these specific action steps would be, including:
- Actively supporting and partnering with organizations that work for social justice and financial democracy within the credit union movement, and that are representative of people of color. For us, this looked like becoming a member of the African American Credit Union Coalition (AACUC) to learn more about and support programs that promote Black credit union professionals, volunteers and credit unions; partnering with the Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions to learn about the financial challenges and opportunities in other areas of the world; and continuing our membership in the Global Women’s Leadership Network (GWLN) and leadership in the GWLN Pennsylvania Sister Society, while also supporting the GWLN Virginia Sister Society, the GWLN Carolinas Sister Society and the GWLN New England Sister Society.
- Committing to attend education sessions and engaging with the Network of Latino Credit Unions and Professionals (NLCUP), CU Pride and Inclusiv to expand our understanding of diverse groups represented within the credit union movement.
- Looking inward to identify opportunities that would broaden and enhance DEI internally with the Corporate’s staff, management, board directors and other committee volunteers.
While we had these specific actions laid out, we wanted to do more than just commit to them; we wanted to use them to transform Vizo Financial’s culture, which is why, at the beginning of 2021, we created the first internal DEI group, Vizo Financial Credit Union Development Educators (DEs). As part of the Vizo Financial DEs, I attended the intensive DEI certificate program at Georgetown University, hosted by the MD & DC CU Association, and then began leading the DEI efforts at Vizo Financial.
In June of 2021, we conducted a national search for a DEI consultant to work with us to collect employee feedback and formulate DEI strategies specific to the needs of our organization. In order to gain meaningful employee feedback, we conducted a staff survey, one-on-one interviews with each member of the executive management team, three focus groups with employees and two planning sessions with the newly formed, internal DEI group - DEI Champions - which includes members across all four Vizo Financial campuses and represents people of different races, genders, sexual orientations, religions, disabilities and ages.
After gathering the analytics from the staff survey, we received a document with detailed recommendations for specific initiatives for Vizo Financial to focus its DEI efforts over the next 12-24 months. The consultant also provided individualized coaching sessions to give feedback and input on our current and future initiatives, as well as advice on how to handle anticipated questions that may arise.
Now, in 2022, a top priority for our management and DEI team and an initiative for our 2022 strategic plan is to increase the staff belonging score on the DEI survey. To do this, we have already produced a 2022 Diversity Calendar recognizing the culture and religious holidays celebrated by our Vizo Financial staff and added a DEI page to our website highlighting our commitment to DEI and sharing current resources. We also publish a monthly newsletter addressing monthly days of recognition and highlighting various DEI principles. In April, the DEI Champions will present a DEI-related education session that all staff will be required to attend and will include data from the DEI survey and information on equity vs. equality, allyship and inclusion, as well as personal stories from coworkers to create empathy and deepen our understanding of others’ experiences.
Our Vizo Financial board and executive management remain deeply committed to advancing DEI at the Corporate and enacting real, lasting and transformative culture change. It is our desire to continue to build a culture of inclusivity and create a place where everyone feels they belong.
Erin Doan is the diversity, equity and inclusion director for Vizo Financial. She is responsible for developing and implementing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and community involvement strategies and programs that foster an environment of inclusivity and collaboration amongst staff, business partners and natural person credit unions. Erin has held various roles with the Corpoate since 2002 and is a Credit Union Development Educator (CUDE).