U.S. Representative Maxine Waters recently took the federal government’s financial services agencies to task for not promoting racial and ethnic diversity in their employment ranks.
On Nov. 5, Waters, the ranking Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, along with members of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Hispanic and Asian- Pacific Islanders caucuses, commented on “The Dodd-Frank Act Five Years Later: Diversity in the Financial Service Agencies” report. The document criticized seven financial services agencies for not implementing the equal employment opportunity portions of Dodd-Frank, the 2010 law that mandated Wall Street and other financial firms improve their practices regarding consumer protection.
“I am disappointed to find that, more than five years after the enactment of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act that included provisions intended to promote workforce and supplier diversity and inclusion, the federal financial services agencies have largely failed to improve on these critical matters,” Rep. Waters said at a press conference on the report. “As communities of color continue to face an insurmountable wealth gap and as African American unemployment remains stagnant at 9.2 percent, our nation cannot afford to have a federal government that is out of touch with the needs of racial and ethnic minorities and women and their daily financial challenges.”
The report was compiled by the Democratic staff members of Waters’ committee and focused on the hiring practices, especially of senior management, from 2011-2013 of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Federal Reserve Board (FRB), Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), and National Credit Union Administration (NCUA).
The report concludes that minorities and women remain underrepresented in the workforce of the agencies in a manner that is out of proportion to their percentages of the American population; minorities and women are significantly underrepresented at the level of senior management, and Black employees generally receive lower performance management ratings than White employees.
For example, the report showed that the agency with the highest percentages of Whites in senior management is the SEC, with 88 percent, and it drops off significantly with Hispanics constituting only five percent at that level, followed by Blacks with four percent and three percent Asian. The study also shows that the agencies with the highest level of Black percentage in senior managers are the FDIC and OCC, with 12 percent each. “As this country’s population is increasingly becoming more racially and ethnically diverse, it is well past time for these agencies to move beyond paying lip service to diversity efforts and instead fully embrace diversity and inclusion policies and practices as vital to achieving their missions by adopting sensible recommendations included in the report,” Waters said.
She was joined at the press conference by Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and CBC members Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Al Green (D-Texas), Terri Sewell (D-Ala.) and Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio). Reps. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) and Norma Torres (D-Calif.) represented the Asian-Pacific Islander and Hispanic caucuses, respectively.
The members of the three caucuses, known as the Tri-Caucus on Capitol Hill with 19 percent of all House members in their ranks, said they want the agencies to fully comply with federal laws regarding diversity, and to insure allegations of discrimination lodged by agency employees are fairly investigated. They are also calling for an update on the progress of diversity hiring in four years.
“The gross underrepresentation of minorities, women, and African Americans in their workplaces and senior management positions is alarming,” Butterfield said. “The CBC encourages each of the agencies audited as part of this committee report to address our concerns expeditiously to ensure diversity representation and equal opportunity for all eligible employees and qualified applications.”
In response to the dreary numbers of hiring practices for minorities and women in federal agencies, a spokesperson from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission told the AFRO, by email, on Nov. 10, “While the number of minorities and women in supervisory and managerial positions at the SEC is increasing, we are actively working on initiatives to enhance diversity.”
The representative said that one of the Office of Women and Minorities, under the SEC, is working to formalize internal policies and procedures to guide the agency’s diversity efforts and programmatic activities. Other federal agencies similarly told the AFRO that they too are pursuing policies to improve their practices and procedures for hiring more women and minorities.