Employers as Allies

Felicia MontoyaBlog

Guest Blog written by: Dr. Erica Barreiro, Chief Learning & Diversity Officer at Nusenda Credit Union

Many workplaces are taking steps towards becoming more inclusive and equitable as we strive to respond to diverse teams and inclusive work environments, but how is this accomplished? What does it mean to truly be an ally?

Here at Nusenda Credit Union, we work to inspire our more than 700 employees to be open to different ideas and cultures, starting with listening to one another and treating people fairly, being inclusive, and valuing other perspectives. We strive to create an inclusive and equitable workplace culture where all employees model behavior that benefits not only our organization, but our members and the communities we serve.

In 2021, Nusenda took meaningful and intentional steps to truly foster this supportive workplace culture through the creation of a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) charter. The charter laid out our mission for this work and established a DE&I Advisory Council to develop strategy and promote equity throughout the workplace. Our council is a diverse group of individuals working together who represent various ethnicities, ages, sexual orientations, and all levels of staff. It helps develop internal communications to educate and celebrate various groups, showcase employee stories, and institutionalize practices that support and accelerate DE&I goals.

In addition to the charter and council, Nusenda is currently working to establish Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) to create an open forum for employees who share a common identity or experience to meet and support one another, fostering an even greater sense of value and belonging.

To further advance Nusenda’s commitment to an inclusive workplace, the Credit Union created the position of Chief Learning and Diversity Officer, bringing me onboard recently to lead Diversity, Equity & Inclusion efforts.

How to foster a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace culture

Many organizations wonder where to begin when it comes to DE&I. At Nusenda, we began with a value for openness as a way to start. Openness involves being honest and transparent, ensuring understanding within our workplace culture. Being humble and willing to learn about new ideas and views is a first step we ask our employees to engage in when supporting our diverse teams.

To truly be allies, as workplace leaders, we must take action beyond simply acknowledging that our teams are diverse. Intentional work needs to be done to provide an environment in which our employees feel safe and valued in their place of work and communities, as well as equitable career advancement opportunities.

Equity acknowledges that diverse communities mean diverse needs, so at Nusenda we are working to understand and address the unique obstacles and inequities that some of our team may face in their daily lives.

Tangible action towards an environment of diversity, equity, and inclusion is never completely finished. It must constantly evolve and advance as we embrace our team. Here are some immediate steps that you can take to become an ally:

  1.  Set the tone – Leadership must champion the mission, ensuring all team members know the goals and strategies for DE&I.
  2. Solicit frequent feedback – Giving all employees a voice is a great start, but listening and taking visible action in response to feedback not only helps employees know they are valued but also ensures diverse perspectives are informing the direction we take.
  3. Create a safe space – Whether creating ERGs or supporting events, building a network for employees who have historically been marginalized in our workspaces is an important step.
  4. Assess – Take time to gather and analyze employee data to discern where your most significant equity gaps exist in the organization. Conduct a DE&I audit of existing policies and processes to determine what needs to be updated to better support DE&I goals.
  5. Act – It is common to worry about doing it “wrong” when it comes to DE&I work, but that can’t paralyze action. As leaders, we are responsible for our communities, so we must actively and creatively support our diverse workforce through internal practices, and intentional and personal action.

Please navigate to the Resources page on the FFNM website where you can find out more about how to foster a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace culture using the FFNM Business Toolkits.

Dr. Erica Barreiro

Chief Learning & Diversity Officer, Nusenda Credit Union

Erica joins Nusenda with over 15 years’ experience in education and program development, and comes from Central New Mexico Community College. Most recently, she served as the Future of Work Strategist, leading several initiatives to adapt to the evolving ways of working and securing national and local partnerships to innovate for the future of learning and talent development. Prior to, she served as the Dean of the School of Communication, Humanities, and Social Sciences for a total of 8 years. Erica transformed faculty culture and built effective teams of staff and faculty to modernize several academic programs including the creation of some of CNM’s first online certificate and degree programs. She also designed the state’s first bilingual certification program to support English as a Second Language learners. Erica brings with her an extensive education, holding a Bachelor of Arts in Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin, a Master of Arts in Curriculum & Instruction from the University of St. Thomas, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Education and Human Resources from Colorado State University.

Erica has served as a chair or co-founder on several local and national committees including Equity Council, Women United Advisory Board, The Culture We Want, LGBTQ+ Advisory Council and panel speaker for the 6th Annual Family Friendly Business Awards Luncheon. She will lead Nusenda’s Learning & Development department and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion work.

Nusenda Credit union is New Mexico’s largest and locally owned and operated credit union with 240,000 thousand members and more than 700 employees. It has more than 20 branches throughout New Mexico in Albuquerque, Rio Rancho, Santa Fe, Taos, Valencia County, Socorros and Las Cruces. There are hundreds of ways to join the credit union. Connect with Nusenda Credit Union at www.nusenda.org; Facebook @NusendaCU; Twitter @NusendaCU; and LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/nusenda