Inclusion & Diversity

Addressing Racism In a Global Pandemic Environment

By: Lynn Heckler, EVP, Chief Talent Officer, PSCU

These are, without a doubt, unsettling times. As the weeks have unfolded, conversations around diversity and equality have come to our nation’s forefront in a way unseen since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

As a leader, there are two main questions I’ve been considering. First, what can one employer do to confront systemic racism during a global pandemic? And second, how can we help promote racial equality while supporting employees through the COVID-19 crisis? As it turns out, we can do quite a bit. In many ways, PSCU is uniquely positioned to make a difference as a leader in an industry that embraces the credit union philosophy of “people helping people.” As the protests against racial injustice play out across the country, I know that we can do better – as individuals, as a cooperative, as an industry, and as a society.

For our leadership team at PSCU, the first step was to recognize and understand that we don’t have all the answers for this emotional and deeply-rooted topic. What we do have is a team that recognizes that systemic racism exists and is fully committed to being part of the solution. Silence was not an option.

Create a Space for Meaningful Conversations

For credit unions looking to drive meaningful conversations and provide resources at the industry level, a partnership with the African-American Credit Union Coalition (AACUC) is a great place to start. PSCU has had a relationship with the AACUC for many years, and has worked with the organization on several initiatives and events, including their upcoming Commitment to Change Conversation Series in August, a five-part virtual event for which we’ll serve as the title sponsor. The series is part of the AACUC’s industry-wide Commitment to Change: Credit Unions Unite Against Racism initiative, which focuses on unification, education, conversations, and investments that can help move the credit union movement into a future where diversity, equity and inclusion can thrive. Inspired by this initiative, PSCU recently pledged to financially support the AACUC’s efforts and provide additional in-kind donations.

PSCU’s relationship with the AACUC also proved integral in another way. After making initial position statements to our employees with regard to racial injustice, it was clear to our leadership team that we needed to create a space for our employees to collaboratively engage on the subject, and provide a platform for their voices to be heard. With this in mind, PSCU partnered with AACUC President and CEO Renée Sattiewhite for our company-wide Commitment to Change webinars in June, in collaboration with Sankofa, PSCU’s African-American employee resource group.

Nearly 600 employees attended the webinars, which were offered as hour-long presentations over two days. Our employees took a genuine interest in addressing topics like systemic racism and unconscious bias, with an opportunity to raise questions to a panel of speakers in an open format. It also gave us an opportunity to explore what we, as an organization, can do better when it comes to strengthening diversity and inclusion, including in the areas of leadership development and recruiting.

Help Your DEI Strategy Thrive

In addition to the webinars, we also moved quickly to provide resources to leaders and assist them in facilitating courageous conversations about racism. Laura Sehres, our vice president of Talent Acquisition who is responsible for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) at PSCU, worked with our Corporate Communications team to distribute a “Managing Through Crisis” series of leader communications, tackling such topics as demonstrating empathy, fostering psychological safety, inclusive leadership and being a proactive ally. In partnership with our employee assistance provider, we also assembled resources for all employees to assist with mental health and well-being.

At PSCU, members of our senior leadership team ARE RESPONSIBLE for continuing the dialogue on eliminating racism within their own teams. We are simultaneously accelerating our DEI strategy across the enterprise. In addition, we are taking a leadership role in industry initiatives such as the CU DEI Collective, and stand united in the group’s belief that “diversity, equity, and inclusion are fundamental to a vibrant, relevant and growing Credit Union Movement.”

Stay Informed and Engaged

In reflecting on this, one of the things that makes me so proud to work for PSCU is that we consider ourselves a family – one that will always strive to do better and support each other. PSCU is built on inclusion and our belief that our employees are our greatest asset – not certain employees, but every employee. Although we may be an imperfect family, the strength of our support for one another has been clear over the last month.

I encourage everyone to actively take part in the conversation and look for ways to stay informed and engaged. I know there are times when we may feel unsure of how we can help, but I think one of the simplest things that we can do is to be willing to listen – with true empathy – and learn. I know the conversations may not always be easy, but they are truly necessary in order for us to find a way to heal and move forward. After all, we are all in this together.

Lynn Heckler has served as PSCU’s executive vice president and chief talent officer since May 2011. Since joining PSCU in 2001, Heckler has shared her passion for creating a culture of inclusion, leadership development and engagement in the workplace, advancing PSCU’s initiatives for inclusion and diversity, women’s leadership, learning and organizational development, corporate insurance, facilities and more.