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Executive Letter: A New Employee Benefit Through WBA

Rose Oswald PoelsBy Rose Oswald Poels

I am pleased to share that WBA’s new employee resource group (ERG) for bankers from underrepresented backgrounds in the industry is off to a successful start. About 25 bankers participated in the initial meeting in mid-June, and bankers continue to sign up to join the group. This is a wonderful opportunity for bank leaders to share with employees within their organization as a way to connect with other bankers from around the state. The next monthly meeting will take place virtually on Wednesday, July 27 from 1:00–2:00 p.m.

A few days after the first meeting of the ERG, WBA hosted a webinar led by Alonzo Kelly on the topic of creating a culture where everyone feels they belong. It is very clear that expectations of today’s workplace go far beyond just job duties, and team members do not simply check their personal lives and unique identities at the door when they arrive at work. It is important for staff not only to feel supported by their colleagues, but also to find others whose experiences resonate with their own.

The conversation took off right away at the first meeting of the ERG. It was evident that bankers were eager to find a forum like this to have a safe space to share their concerns and ideas, as well as to receive advice and actionable tools that they can bring back to their organization. We know that many small community banks would not be able to offer this type of employee benefit on their own — and that employees from larger banks also appreciate being able to connect with bankers outside their organization — so this is an area where WBA can play a helpful role.

The WBA Board of Directors formalized a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) plan about two years ago, and this new employee resource group is one of the many ways the plan is being carried out. This group is designed to be an inclusive space for members of the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC); LGBTQ+, persons with disabilities, religious minority communities, and veterans as well as anyone who has an identity that is underrepresented in the banking community. If you have not yet done so (or if you would like to send a reminder of the opportunity), I would highly encourage bank leaders and HR professionals to extend this invitation to the staff in your organization who could benefit from it. Bankers can sign up here for the ERG, and they will receive a calendar invite to the upcoming meeting on July 27.

If you would like to learn more about the DEI resources offered by WBA — including the WBA Connect DEI peer group, the bank DEI sample policy, and more — please visit the DEI page on our website and reach out to any of the contacts listed on that page if you have questions. Thank you for your continued participation in making Wisconsin’s banking industry a welcoming space for everyone who is employed at and does business with our institutions!