National Urban League Meets with Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen to Urge Diversity in the Federal Reserve System

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Janet Yellen and Marc MorialLast week, National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial; National Urban League Chief Economist Dr. Bernard Anderson; The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Associate Vice Provost and Professor Dr. Marie Mora; Pipeline Opportunity Program President and CEO Dr. Lucy Reuben; and Urban Affairs Coalition President and CEO Sharmain Matlock-Turner met with Janet Yellen, Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, on the issue of diversity.

Recently, Morial spoke to TNJ.com to discuss how the meeting played out and what the next steps are.

TNJ.com: Regarding your meeting with Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen about the lack of diversity throughout the Federal Reserve System, overall, how did it go?

Marc Morial: I thought it was a positive first step meeting. As you know the Federal Reserve, which is a very important part of the federal government, is both the controller of the flow of money and the supervisor of the national banks in the United States. So, it?s a very significant agency with a lot of power and control. Here are the facts: There has never been, in the history of the Fed, an African American regional federal president. The Fed has a number of regional banks that operate and carry out the mandates of the Fed in local jurisdictions. There has never been an African-American in one of those positions. Less than 9 percent of the banks? senior level executives are African American and Latino combined.

Third, the contracting numbers for the Fed are paltry. We went in to say that this is a concern and that this is something that the new provisions of Dodd-Frank require you to do something about. We went in to both encourage them and share our ideas. There is so much talent in the Black and Latino communities and these talented people have not had the opportunity to work in a distinguished institution like the Fed.
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TNJ.com: Although workforce and supplier diversity have increased under Chair Yellen?s leadership, what other areas would the National Urban League like to see improved?

M.M.: These are the key areas. And Chair Yellen was very receptive to our suggestions and very open to our ideas and we?re obviously going to follow up with a set of written recommendations and best practices that we will share with the Fed. But employment and contracting are key issues and they are what I call ?the bedrock of good diversity.? If you get your employment and your contracting situations right, those are important first steps.? I would also like to see some focus on getting diversity at the highest levels of the Fed and particularly at the regional bank president?s level.? It’s a very important and highly influential position. Many people are qualified for those jobs, and they do turn over from time to time, so therefore we will have a focus on those positions as job vacancies emerge.

TNJ.com: You?ve said that less than one percent of the Board?s contracting opportunities went to African Americans and less than six percent to Latinos. Can you tell me more about that???

M.M.: It?s a long-standing problem in what I call the “economic agencies” of the federal government. Not only the Fed, but also the FDIC, the OCC, the Department of Treasury and so on. The names of these agencies may not mean a whole lot to people but they are tremendously powerful when it comes to jobs policies, housing policies and? overseeing whether the banks are fair in their lending practices in making money available for car loans, houses and small business growth and development. We, at the National Urban League, are highly focused on these economic agencies. 21st century civil rights has to include a concern about voting and criminal justice, but it also has to include a concern for what these economic agencies do.

TNJ.com: Will there be a follow-up meeting with Chair Yellen?

M.M.: I expect that there will be a follow-up meeting and an ongoing dialogue. We assembled a delegation of a number of Black and Latino economists and brought their expertise to bear. This is not something the National Urban League is doing alone; it is a coalition of people who have tremendous expertise and knowledge about this area.?

?(National Urban League?is a historic civil rights and urban advocacy organization dedicated to economic empowerment in historically underserved urban communities. ?Founded in 1910, the National Urban League has improved the lives of tens of millions of people nationwide through direct service programs that are implemented locally by its 88 Urban League affiliates in 36 states and the District of Columbia. The organization also conducts public policy and advocacy activities from its Washington, D.C. bureau.)