Social Media Post Serves as Important Reminder About Business Etiquette

Last week, CU Today reported about a LinkedIn blog post, “Credit Unions, We Can Do Better,” written by a credit union executive who claims she witnessed and experienced inappropriate, sexist behavior at the CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC) last month.  In this day and age, we shouldn’t be seeing stories like this in the news from any industry, but they continue to appear.

As a network, we set high standards for how we serve our members. In this spirit, we must ensure we are treating our credit union colleagues the same way. The below article serves as important reminder to practice proper business etiquette at all times.

From CU Today – A LinkedIn post by one female credit union executive alleging sexist and demeaning behavior by a number of men during CUNA’s recent GAC has gone viral.

At press time, nearly 100 people had responded with comments to a post by Rachel Pross, chief risk officer with Maps Credit Union in Oregon, in which Pross stated, “Something really leapt out at me this year, however, and that’s putting it lightly. In the midst of the #MeToo Movement, credit unions can do better. Really.”

“This year’s GAC left a lot to be desired from credit union men, and I’m not just talking about the offenders,” wrote Pross. “I’m also talking about the men who observe offensive behavior from their peers and yes- their board members- and either chuckle uncomfortably or say absolutely nothing. We’re an industry that boasts a cooperative spirit, diversity, and inclusion (more on that in a moment), but our industry is not immune to bad behavior.”

Examples of Bad Behavior

Among the examples of bad behavior to which Pross said she and other women were subjected included:

  • “More than once, I had a perfect stranger practically drape himself over me and plant an introductory wet kiss on my cheek rather than shaking my hand like he did with the rest of the folks (men) in my group. Please stop doing that.”
  • “I also noticed that I’m apparently perceived as incapable of entering a room on my own without having the gentle guidance of a man’s hand on my lower back (far too low, in more than one instance). Please stop doing that.”
  • “A female senior credit union employee from my region was greeted by another senior credit union employee (a male) from a different credit union in our region by him walking up behind her and licking her bare shoulder. Yes, licking her. And then feigning great offense when she wanted nothing to do with him and again when I later firmly told him to keep his distance.”
  • “A board member I met on the plane to D.C. never once called me by my name in four days. He’d shout, ‘Hello, Pretty Face!’ across the hotel lobby at me instead.”
  • “At a lunch with a male credit union CEO from another part of the country, I was repeatedly cut off, spoken over, or blatantly dismissed. While discussing the FinCEN guidance for cannabis banking (the very topic I was qualified enough to speak about in congressional testimonylast month), this man interrupted me and said, “No. You’re wrong. There are no rules. Read about it.” Then, turning to my male colleagues, he said he’d be in touch. When he turned back to me, he said, ‘I’ll introduce you to my compliance girl.’”
  • “At the closing reception, an older man currently sitting on a credit union board made a comment to me that I can’t even comfortably write in this article. Rather than call out the behavior, the male CEO working for him simply mouthed ‘I’m so sorry’to me.”
  • “Finally, when I’d had enough of the reception, I politely said to my table that it was time for me to go upstairs. Yet another credit union board member drunkenly shouted as I stood up, ‘Which room again?’”

Asking, “Is this our best, credit unions?” Pross said some people reading her post would roll their eyes and think “I’m just another woman whining (there’s probably another term in your heads) about some innocent, playful banter. This isn’t innocent, and it isn’t playful. It’s chauvinistic and wrong, and we need to start talking about it. I know that’s easier said than done, particularly when board members are in question, but ending sexism in our industry takes all of us. Not just women who are tired after four days with these men at a conference.”

About That ‘50%’ Statistic

Pross went on the write that throughout GAC she repeatedly heard references to the fact approximately 50% of credit union CEOs are women, stating, “That’s not really an accurate depiction.”

“How many large credit unions have female CEOs?” asked Pross. “I pulled the most recent Call Report data for Oregon and Washington on NCUA’s website and filtered by ‘active’ status. Out of the fifty-eight credit unions that came up in the Oregon results, fifteen of them have assets greater than $250 million. One. One of those fifteen larger credit unions in Oregon has a female CEO. Out of the eighty-five credit unions in Washington, the results showed thirty credit unions with assets greater than $250 million. Out of those thirty credit unions, only six are led by women. Collectively, out of forty-five credit unions reported with assets greater than $250 million in this region (OR/WA), only 15.6% are led by female CEOs. That paints a vastly different picture than the one we tout at the GAC, and I didn’t even begin to research salary comparisons.”

Steps to Take

To help resolve issues related to “male-centrism” in the credit union industry, Pross, who said “we have a long way to go before all things are equal,” offered some strategies for making progress, including:

  • The need to recognize that “fixing this isn’t just up to men. It’s up to all of us.
  • The need to be “aware and be willing to talk about this stuff and not gloss over it or brush it under the rug. Speak up. That’s why I’m writing this today instead of posting the usual happy GAC photos with our senators.”
  • A need to “call it out when we see it, as uncomfortable as that may be. Speak up. Be brave. That means having difficult conversations with board members, recruiting future board members and leaders differently (and from more diverse candidate pools), diligently educating our individual organizations, and issuing swift and appropriate corrective action when we see our employees behaving badly.”

Not accepting or excusing bad behavior based on the “relaxed evening environment and abundant alcohol available at most conferences and industry events. If you have an employee who can’t hold his (or her) liquor, he (or she) shouldn’t be drinking. He represents you. He represents your credit union and its member-owners. And he represents every man in our industry who does know and consistently demonstrates how to behave himself and treat others respectfully.”

“We can do better, credit unions, and it starts with each one of us,” wrote Pross.

The Feedback

Among the comments posted on Pross’ LinkedIn post:

  • Alan Althouse, president/CEO, TruWest Credit Union: “Thank You for having the courage to post this Rachel.  This outrageous behavior diminishes everything credit unions stand for and cannot be tolerated.   Until leadership at the board and senior management level is more diverse, it will not truly end.  As a CEO of one of those larger credit unions, I consider increasing diversity, with strong female leaders fairly represented, a critical measure of my success.”
  • Barbara Bean, CEO, Cal Poly FCU: “Rachel — great article — so true – so embarrassing.   If someone said to my staff in my office what people said to you at the conference, I would talk to them about the inappropriateness of their comments.  But I don’t think I would have said anything if I observed the same thing at the conference.  I need to call out offenders no matter where I am.  We all do.”
  • Richard Kump, President/CEO, UMass 5 Credit Union: “Wow. First time I’ve really been embarrassed about our industry. Thanks, Rachel, for opening my eyes. I’m fortunate to live in a community that does not tolerate the type of behavior you experienced, but even so, the glass ceiling is still hard to crack. Talk (just like this post) is cheap. So, I vow to make a difference at my credit union. There, I said it. Not sure what form that will take, but I know some incredibly strong women here that can help me. Thanks again for sharing.”
  • Angela Head, CEO, MAC Credit Union: “Thank you for this brave and smartly written piece.  WE all must be brave and call this behavior out as it happens.  IMHO, those who are the offenders will not change until we do so as a movement and consistently!”