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NCUA’s Harper: “When Differences End, Understanding Begins”

November 2019
NCUA’s Harper: “When Differences End, Understanding Begins”

Board Member Describes a Journey to Understanding and a Commitment

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (Nov. 6, 2019) – Promoting diversity and inclusion is everyone’s responsibility, and it results in broader perspectives that lead to better decisions, National Credit Union Administration Board Member Todd M. Harper said today.

Harper challenged credit unions to take five steps to improve performance and prepare for the future.

“By shining a light on diversity, equity and inclusion,” Harper said, “we can create better workplaces, a more responsive government, and a credit union system that works for everyone. We can, as our founders envisioned, create ‘a more perfect union.’”

Harper spoke to the NCUA’s inaugural Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Summit. The text of his remarks is available online.

Harper described how, as a boy from Indiana, he became increasingly aware of a broader, more diverse world as he grew up. He also talked about friends and mentors who taught him valuable personal and professional lessons that moved him to help others in return. One was a coworker named Pat.

“Pat used to have a poster in her cubicle of a little black girl and a little white boy playing together,” he said. “That poster reads: ‘When Differences End, Understanding Begins.’ I got that poster after Pat died many years ago, and I still have it.”

Coming Out

Harper discussed his personal experience of not feeling accepted at the beginning of his career.

“I hid who I was,” Harper said. “After all, people lost their jobs simply for being gay. Fortunately, over time, I became more comfortable in my own skin. In doing so, I came out on my own terms and made friends who accepted me for who I am.”

Harper noted his own experience illustrates the importance of employee resource groups. These employee-led groups can be a valuable resource for employees and employers because they help foster a diverse, inclusive workplace aligned with an organization’s objectives.

The NCUA has seven employee resource groups. They help the agency create an environment that recognizes and encourages the use of the diverse talents and perspectives of all employees to achieve the NCUA’s mission.

“Employee resource groups are making the NCUA a stronger agency and a better place to work, and that’s good for everyone in the credit union system,” Harper said.

Five Steps to Commit to Diversity

Harper listed five steps people in the credit union system can take to make an investment in greater diversity, equity and inclusion:

  • Complete the NCUA’s annual Voluntary Credit Union Diversity Self-Assessment, which helps credit unions evaluate their diversity policies and practices;
  • Encourage others in the industry to take the assessment;
  • Practice inclusion every day, beginning with talking with coworkers about their priorities;
  • Create employee resource groups or individually mentor a woman, a person of color, or someone in need of a mentor; and
  • If the credit union is large enough, create a supplier diversity program.

“If you don’t deliberately include, you will unintentionally exclude,” Harper said. “Diversity, equity and inclusion are everyone’s responsibility. By taking these five steps, you and your credit union can become diversity champions.”

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