CUES Podcast
CUES Podcast
Feb 8, 2021
CUES Podcast 109: When Hiring a Chief Diversity Officer, Look for Grit, Experience, Certification and the Right Spirit—an Interview With Renée Sattiewhite, CUDE, CDP
Play • 15 min

There’s a growing trend of credit unions hiring chief diversity officers, says Renee Sattiewhite, CUDE, CDP, president/CEO of the African American Credit Union Coalition.

“It is amazing that so many credit unions are calling or asking about what should they do, what should they be looking for,” Sattiewhite says in this episode. “I’m happy to report that the credit unions that are larger are doing that. And then some of the credit unions are calling us because they don’t have a chief diversity officer (wondering), ‘What can they do in lieu of that?’”

Why is this trend good news? “I think that it’s a good sign with the industry that they’re looking at having someone who is certified, who’s got the information, who’s got the intellect and the skill to help lead the organization in their DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) journey,” Sattiewhite explained.

Hiring a chief diversity officer that isn’t certified is troubling, she explained. “It’s quite important to have the knowledge behind you so that you can talk about the unconscious biases, that you can talk about the DEI-specific things so you can help the organization move past that,” Sattiewhite emphasizes. “You need to really vet the people that you’re looking at for candidates, making sure that the organization is not just checking a box.

“It’s not a project. It’s a journey. It is not a sprint. It is a marathon,” she adds. “And I think people need to see it that way. They think that, ‘We came up with a DEI plan, so we’re good.’ No, that does not make you good. Can you execute on that plan? Can you change that plan when it needs to be changed? Are you open to making sure that everyone is included in that plan? … DEI is not just a race issue; it’s more than just that.”

What should credit unions look for in a chief diversity officer? Sattiewhite says the key lies in “making sure that that person has the right spirit—the spirit of change, a spirit of helping, a spirit of openness, preferably someone who has experience and understands the needs of a multicultural membership or a multicultural staff and employees. I think that to think that just because you have a plan that you’re done is an unrealistic expectation,” she says. 

“The organization didn’t get to where it is overnight. So the DEI journey, it’s going to be … unfortunately sometimes painful. You have to have a lot of grit, a lot of gumption. You have to have someone who is fearless and really wants to effect change not just in the organization but in the community that they serve.”

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