Grow Financial Federal Credit Union
July 20, 2021

Grow Diversity Committee Hosts Team Member LGBTQ+ Panel

In honor of Pride Month, the Grow Diversity Committee hosted their first ever LGBTQ+ panel, bringing together team members from across the organization to share their stories, thoughts and perspectives. The event is part of a series of team member panels designed to encourage learning through shared dialogue. It is also a continuation of our efforts to cultivate an inclusive environment around a common core value — treating everyone with dignity and recognizing our shared humanity. Panelists from multiple departments, of varying age, race, rank and tenure, set the stage for a deeper level of conversation and better understanding of diverse perspectives. The panel featured Tommy Davis, Market Manager, Rosa Hernandez, Loan Resolution Specialist, Peter Mazurkiewicz, Vice President of Contact Center Operations, Doug Tilden, Chief Financial Officer, and Sharon Unger, Vice President of Indirect Lending. This event was incredibly inspiring, filled with laughter, tears and everything in between.

Our team members courageously shared deeply personal experiences about navigating varied workplace cultures and family backgrounds as LGBTQ+ individuals and choosing to be their authentic selves at work. Several panelists recounted experiences of how discrimination has impacted their lives, including instances of being passed over for promotions and enduring hostility from others in previous workplaces. Especially impactful was the journey shared by Tilden, who described growing up in a time of heightened discrimination and risk for LGBTQ+ people.

Tilden joined Grow as CFO in January 2019, after spending many years in finance, operations and risk management, working both domestically and internationally with GE Capital, Volvo Commercial Finance and JPMorgan Chase & Co. He talked about the evolution of the environment for LGBTQ+ people in the U.S. over the last several decades, describing the history of struggle their community has faced in each era, from the HIV/AIDS crisis to the Matthew Sheppard murder to prolonged discrimination in the workforce. He noted the progress made over time, saying, “I can’t emphasize enough the way the conversation has evolved.” He, along with other panelists, discussed a shared concern for LGBTQ+ youth and the importance of advocating for the next generation to have a supportive, safe environment.

While discussing the importance of authenticity in the workplace, a recurring theme emerged in the form of appreciation for the work of Kim Woollard, Chief Human Resources Officer. Woollard has worked diligently throughout her 22 years at Grow to cultivate a culture where every team member feels appreciated, valued and encouraged to be their authentic selves at work. Mazurkiewicz named Woollard’s support for LGBTQ+ team members as a primary reason he feels accepted here. “Kim was instrumental in getting Grow to participate in St. Pete Pride many years ago. I know she put up a really good fight for us in a different time that wasn’t as welcoming,” stated Mazurkiewicz.

Grow recognizes that for everyone to feel included in the workplace, we must embrace the individuality of our people and allow space for all team members to be their authentic selves. In closing out the panel with advice for listeners, Tilden left the audience with a beloved quote from Gloria Gaynor: “Life’s not worth a damn until I can shout out ‘I am what I am.’”

Diversity, equity and inclusion require active effort for progress to happen, and we are committed to seek new opportunities to grow as a team. Our CEO, Thomas Feindt, said, “As we move forward, our commitment to embracing humanity and becoming a more inclusive organization will only strengthen. Recognizing, appreciating and embracing the humanity of everyone around us is fundamental to being able to proudly say that we serve people, not profit.”

To all the panelists, we deeply appreciate the courage and vulnerability of each one of you, and we thank you for taking the time to share your personal stories with the rest of the Grow team.


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