Washington, DC – Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-35) presided over a joint hearing of the Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity – which she chairs – and the Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations, chaired by Rep. Dennis Moore (KS-03), entitled “Minorities and Women in Financial Regulatory Reform: The Need for Increasing Participation and Opportunities for Qualified Persons and Businesses”.
The Congresswoman – along with the 9 other Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) members who serve on the Financial Services Committee – fought successfully for the inclusion of a provision to establish an Office of Minority and Women Inclusion at each of the federal banking agencies and the Consumer Financial Protection Agency in H.R. 4173, the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009. The amendment to establish these offices passed the Financial Services Committee on a voice vote, and passed the full House last December. Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Roland Burris (D-IL) have offered a similar amendment to the Senate’s version of the House bill.
“Today’s hearing was important for establishing a definitive hearing record on the underrepresentation of minorities and women in the financial services industry, the challenges facing minority- and women-owned businesses in contracting with our financial services agencies, and the need for an Office of Minority and Women Inclusion to effectively address these challenges,” said Congresswoman Waters.
At the hearing, the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) testified on its findings from a report on “Overall Trends in Management-Level Diversity and Diversity Initiatives, 1993-2008” that examined diversity trends within the workplace for various sectors of the financial services industry. Although financial services firms have implemented some of the leading diversity management principles identified by experts, many of these initiatives have faced challenges including: a limited “pipeline” of minority or women candidates for senior management positions; difficulty in retaining minority and women candidates; and gaining management (particularly middle-management) “buy-in” to embrace diversity. As a result, while there was a slight increase, management-level diversity did not change substantially from 1993 – 2008.
Witnesses also testified about their challenges in contracting with federal financial services agencies, especially on programs related to the economic recovery like the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility (TALF), and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s (FDIC) asset sales. Witnesses expressed how the agencies’ use of no-bid contracts or closed RFP (request for proposal) processes negatively impacted them and further explained how such contracts can serve to exclude minority- and women-owned businesses from future opportunities with these agencies.
“Situations where agencies feel the need to act quickly certainly highlight the need for an Office of Minority and Women Inclusion at each of these agencies,” Congresswoman Waters said. “No one is saying that our agencies shouldn’t be able to respond quickly in the event of a financial crisis. But without an infrastructure of inclusion and without someone in the room to weigh in on the impact of these actions on minority- and women-owned businesses, these businesses will continue to be excluded.”
Congresswoman Waters is a leading advocate of expanding the inclusion of minority and women financial services professionals both within government and in the private sector. She has encouraged greater participation by minority and women-owned businesses in government programs such as the TARP, TALF, the FDIC’s asset sales, the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP), and other programs addressed in H.R. 4173.
“Given the increasing diversity of our nation’s population, we must utilize the skills and talents of all of our citizens. This is not only a matter of fairness but also a question of effectiveness,” Congresswoman Waters said.
House of Rep: Office of Maxine Waters, 2344 Rayburn Building, Washington, DC 20515 United States