By: Devona Walker, theloop21.com
WASHINGTON - The recently enacted financial reform legislation tries in numerous ways to change how Wall Street companies and their federal regulators act, but a little-noticed provision aims for something potentially more difficult and controversial — altering how they look, the Los Angeles Times reports.
To promote diversity in the largely white male world, the law requires each of the 30 federal financial agencies and departments, including the Securities and Exchange Commission and all 12 Federal Reserve banks, to establish an Office of Minority and Women Inclusion.
Those offices will have vaguely defined powers to boost diversity at their agencies and the companies they regulate and to increase federal contracting opportunities for minority- and women-owned businesses. Banks and other financial firms that fail to make "a good-faith effort to include minorities and women in their workforce" could lose their government contracts.
"This is a wake-up call for Wall Street: women, black Americans, Asian Americans, Latino Americans, they all pay for your bailouts," said Michael Yaki, a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. "Firms must take steps to be more reflective of America."
The provision, championed by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), has been hailed as groundbreaking by minority and women's advocates. But banking industry leaders and some Republicans are concerned about potentially burdensome regulations and costly new oversight that they see as unnecessarily duplicating — and perhaps going well beyond — other federal diversity initiatives.