Is Rank And File Skeptical Of Diversity Efforts?

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Almost 68 percent of the eFinancialCareers users who responded to a snap poll said their company is "not really" serious about diversity. But while acknowledging the industry isn't where it wants to be, the Securities Industry Association says firms are making real progress toward increasing the diversity of their workforces.

Of the eFinancialCareers users who responded to the poll, 10.7 percent said their company "actively leverages the diversity it has," while 10.7 percent said diversity efforts vary from unit to unit. Another 10.7 percent said "we talk about" diversity.

Terrence R. Simmons, managing partner of Simmons Associates, a consulting firm focused on issues related to diversity, culture and organizational development, said the results surprised him "a little bit." Noting that responses would vary from firm to firm, Simmons believes that "when a company really gets serious about diversity, the people will know it."

Pamela I. Faber, managing director of Human Resources at the Securities Industry Association (SIA) and staff advisor to the association's diversity committee, says firms are very serious about the issue. "I wouldn't sit here and say we're where we want to be, but we've seen an increase in these types of (diversity) programs" and increasing proportions of women and people of color in the securities workforce, she says. "Progress is there, we have way to go, but we have a sustained commitment."

Indeed, according to the 2005 Report on Diversity Strategy, Development and Demographics, a survey conducted by the SIA every two years, people of color make up 21 percent of the industry's workforce, up from 18 percent in 2003.

Much of that increase comes from an increase in the number of Asians/Pacific Islanders employed in the business. They comprised 9 percent of the workforce in 2005, compared to 7 percent in 2003, the report says. Six percent were African-Americans, compared to 5 percent in 2003, while the proportion of Hispanics was 5 percent, the same as in 2003. Women, who held 37 percent of the industry's jobs in 2003, made up 44 percent of the workforce in 2005.

The securities industry is "a transaction-oriented culture," says Faber. "Sometimes people expect immediate and tangible results, but that's not always the case with diversity and practices. These kinds of programs take time."

Still, Simmons sees the results as "a powerful indicator companies have to do more."

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