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Have 5 Minutes? Use it to Influence Federal Diversity Policy

Stakeholders like us have until December 24, 2013 to provide feedback and recommendations on how to make diversity regulations more effective.

Attention diversity nerds, Christmas came early this year! After three years of anticipation, six of the Offices of Minority and Women Inclusion finally released some proposed standards addressing how they're going to assess diversity policies of the banks and other financial businesses their agencies oversee in the private sector. This is a big deal, and we have an opportunity to make a big impact.

The Offices of Minority and Women Inclusion (OMWIs) were created by the Dodd-Frank financial reform act to address and improve workforce and supplier diversity in the financial sector. (I've blogged before about the importance and impact of workforce diversity and supplier diversity programs. But for a more in depth explanation of what the OMWIs actually do, I encourage you to check out our Huffington Post op-ed from last May). Supporters of these offices, including Greenlining, will be quick to tell you that the policy that created them isn't the strongest and leaves the OMWIs without enforcement power. Nevertheless, we've been chomping at the bit to see how they will use their position within the regulatory agencies to influence the disappointing diversity levels in finance.

On October 25, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, National Credit Union Administration, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the Securities and Exchange Commission proposed joint standards. Together, these standards are expected to affect nearly 68,000 financial institutions in the private sectorfrom big name banks, to community credit unions, to investment firms. That's millions of jobs and hundreds of billions of dollars in contracting opportunities. People of color are already the majority in California, Hawaii, Texas, New Mexico, and Washington, D.C., and are projected to be the nation's new majority by 2042. It's imperative that this regulation is done right and benefits the nation's soon-to-be new majority.

As currently proposed, the regulations are unfortunately very weak. Our press release explained that the standards contain a lot of positive language, but are more of a list of recommendations and best practices than actual regulations. In addition to being short on specifics, they also allow financial institutions to do a self-assessment of their performance and decide if they will even share that assessment with the OMWIs. I can tell you from firsthand experience that the vast majority of companies choose not to share information on their diversity performance unless ordered to.

But it's not all bad news! These rules aren't final just yet. Stakeholders like us have until December 24, 2013 to provide feedback and recommendations on how to make this more effective. This isn't just some petition you signed in high school to extend lunch time. Regulators take these comments very seriously. And if enough of us call for more specific guidelines and transparency, the OMWIs will have the public backing to be more assertive in their regulations and effect real change.

Led by Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA), members of the Congressional Black Caucus fought tooth n' nail to create the OMWIs in one of the most hostile, divided Congresses in recent history. Now it's our time to step up and to do our part to ensure that we have a financial sector that works for all.

Check out the proposed guidelines and find instructions on how to submit your comments here. For any questions or feedback on the OMWIs or how to write comments, please don't hesitate to email me at danielleb[at]greenlining[dot]org or give me a call at 510-926-4024.

Want to provide feedback to the Offices of Minority and Womens Inclusion? Click here to say you'll do it.

Image via Ryan Rodrick Beiler /

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