NCUA report cites progress in diversity efforts but room to grow

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The National Credit Union Administration has made strides in increasing diversity within its employees, though ample work remains.

The regulator released on Monday its 2019 Office of Minority and Women Inclusion Annual Report, which highlights the advances NCUA has made in promoting diversity, equity and inclusion. That’s a key priority for Chairman Rodney Hood.

"I have described financial inclusion as the civil rights issue of our time,” Hood wrote in the report. “I am heartened and reassured that this message is so well-received everywhere I go.”

Last year the regulator hired 102 new employees. About 45% of those staffers were women and roughly 37% were minorities. Forty-three percent of its supplier contracts were awarded to minority and women-owned businesses, which is up from 22.5% from 2015, though down from 45% in 2018.

The number of minorities serving in senior staff roles also increased to 25% in 2019, up from almost 19% a year earlier, according to the report. And the agency also established the Culture, Diversity and Inclusion Council, which will host its first in-person meeting and orientation this year, and hosted the inaugural DEI summit in 2019.

Still, the report revealed that NCUA has a long way to go in improving diversity among its ranks. Women made up less than 44% of NCUA's workforce, nearly five percentage points below the recommended benchmark from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's Civilian Labor Force.

More than half of the agency's departures were women in both 2018 and 2019.

"Females may have been slightly more likely to leave for another government position or to resign,” the report read.

Examiners were also predominantly male — roughly two-thirds of these employees were men — and overwhelmingly white. Minorities made up just 24% of examiners, which is nearly 6 percentage points less than NCUA's total minority population of almost 30%.

The credit union regulator is looking to fix these issues. For instance, NCUA is working with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management to find potential barriers in the testing process to become an examiner. Results of the survey will be used by NCUA to identify best practices for exam preparation.

“Examiners make up 67.6% of the agency’s workforce and, therefore, comprise a significant portion of the leadership pipeline,” the report read. “Without diversity in the examiner series, diversity in the leadership applicant pool is limited.”

NCUA is also continuing to work on its internal leadership by offering leadership development programs. Forty-eight employees — 30 of them were women — participated in leadership development programs last year. The regulator created a mentoring program in 2016 to bolster efforts in developmental opportunities, cross-cultural understanding and cultivating greater inclusion among its network.

Overall the credit union industry has grappled with issues of diversity. Though a slight majority of credit union executives are female, most of those women are in positions at credit unions with less than $100 million in assets.

To help combat this, the Filene Research Institute launched its DEI research center earlier this year, and NCUA has been promoting its Credit Union Diversity Self-Assessment, which 119 institutions completed in 2019, a 46% increase from the prior year.

NCUA introduced new initiatives for 2020 as well, including the launch of two additional employee resource groups. One group will focus on employees with disabilities, and the other will focus on young professionals.

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