Wall Street diversity efforts have a ‘long way to go’-commentary


Is any of this actually working? Are women, people of color and ethnic minorities finding success on Wall Street? Are they having rewarding and fulfilling careers? Or is Wall Street still just a white man’s world with a thin veneer of diversity layered on for public relations effect? According to Goldman’s latest numbers, from July 2016, 22 percent of the firm’s executives and senior “officials and managers” are women, while 82 percent are white. Only 2.6 percent of that top group at the firm is black and only 3.9 percent is Hispanic or Latino. (Marty Chavez, Goldman’s chief financial officer, is Hispanic.)

Only 5.3 percent of Goldman’s total workforce of around 35,000 is black while 37.6 percent is female. There are two women on its 11-member board of directors. Dina Powell, a former Goldman partner and a former deputy national security advisor, will soon return to the firm as a member of its management committee.

In some ways it’s even worse at Lazard. In banking, there are two black partners – the revered Vernon Jordan and William Lewis, the co-head of investment banking – and one woman, Jean Greene. At the end of February, Lazard announced that it had named 10 new managing directors worldwide – none of whom were women. But, in its public presentations, the firm proudly notes that its 2,800 employees worldwide come from more than 70 different countries.

At a symposium, held at the U.S. Treasury in 2010 about women in finance, Elizabeth Warren, not yet a U.S. Senator, said about the fact that there aren’t enough women on Wall Street, “Sometimes you have to lean back and sock someone in the mouth.”

She was right then and she’s still right. Wall Street is sounding some of the right notes but it’s still got a long way to go to be as diverse and welcoming as it likes to think it is.

Commentary by William D. Cohan, a special correspondent at Vanity Fair and the author most recently of Why Wall Street Matters. Follow him on Twitter @williamcohan.

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