Slow Progress for Women, Minorities

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Securities companies are making slow progress in their quest to include more women and minorities in the ranks of their senior managers. This comes despite an industry-wide emphasis on recruiting and retaining talent with diverse backgrounds.

Reuters says women and minorities are being "squeezed in Wall Street's promotion pipeline" as it threads its way toward the levels of managing director and above. In the past, many workforce experts have said recruitment of minority talent out of college was succeeding in diversifying staffs at the junior level, but that a lack of diverse talent in the middle-management ranks would slow efforts to diversify Wall Street's executive tier.

In recent years Wall Street has put great effort into hiring and retaining minorities at all levels. While few doubt the industry's direction will change, few believe complete solutions will be achieved easily or quickly. Meanwhile, minority candidates are presented with an exceptional opportunity: Because fewer women, blacks and Hispanics are applying to business schools, financial companies are engaged in a fierce war for their talent.

Retention, Retention

Once they've been recruited, investment banks are going to increasing lengths to retain these workers and help them develop their careers. Citigroup, for example, has created programs for skills training and subjects such as "political savvy, communicating for impact, financial philosophy, budget preparedness and presentation skills," said Patricia David, global head of diversity/talent and employee programs for the firm's corporate and investment banking division.

At Merrill Lynch Subha Barry, head of diversity, told Reuters she'd be surprised if the composition of the firm's middle and senior workforce didn't mirror that of its board of directors - which includes several women and minorities - in five years. The chairman of Merrill Lynch, Stan O'Neal, is black.

"The top and the bottom have to meet," she said. "The middle is where the work has to be done."

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