These nonprofits strive to increase diversity in the financial industry
The financial services industry in the United States has traditionally been a sector overwhelmingly dominated by white men (imagine the business scenes in films such as “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “Boiler Room”). But a growing number of organizations are forming across the United States to encourage women and people of color to consider careers in the financial services industry. ZDNet found three nonprofits that are making inroads toward financial sector diversification.
Let’s start with the good news. Gender-based diversity among entry-level positions in the financial services industry is stabilizing. Women, in banking for example, accounted for 52% of those positions according to a 2021 report by McKinsey and Leanin.org.
These gains also translate to senior management – somewhat. Over the past three years, the number of women at the senior vice president level has increased by 40%. The number of C-suite positions held by women increased by 50%. While that sounds impressive, the overall numbers show that progress is still needed. Only 23% of leadership positions are held by white women, 9% by men of color, and 4% by women of color.
Overcoming a lack of diversity
Bevon Joseph began his career in information technology on the New York and Chicago courts repairing equipment. He took a crash course in investing because of his proximity to traders and the relationships he developed. However, during a 20-year career in the financial services industry, including a role as technical director of a hedge fund, he noticed a distinct lack of diversity in his industry.
Joseph, Founder and CEO, started Project Greenwood in 2016 to expose more black and Latino youth to careers in the finance and fintech industry. The nonprofit organization is named after the industrious community of Tulsa, Oklahoma, built by the children of slaves who thrived until the infamous 1921 massacre. They recruit high school students, seniors and students to participate in paid summer positions. The high school program, currently operating only in Chicago, is a six-week paid summer job where students learn to code and analyze stocks with investment bankers from firms such as Goldman Sachs. “Kids are exposed to so many fintech careers early on so they can make an informed decision when they go to college. Too many kids don’t look at fintech or finance,” Joseph said. ZDNet. He strongly believes that young people cannot be what they cannot see.
Greenwood College Scholars are recruited nationally. This year, 75 students are taking a four-week training program housed at DePaul University. From there, they will complete a six-week paid internship at financial services firms in Chicago, New York, Denver or Las Angeles. Next year, the lucky trainees will have the chance to travel to London. Currently, Project Greenwood works with 50 partner companies, including Citadel Securities. “The Greenwood Project’s high school program reaches students at a pivotal time in their academic journey, when skills-based training and exposure to new opportunities can pave the way to success,” said Gerald Beeson, principal of Citadel operations in a press release.
The project has a 90% retention rate from high school to college and 100% of graduates work full-time in the financial services industry. Fifty percent of their recruits are women. Brandy Wayne was part of the initial cohort of the high school program in the summer of 2019. “When I joined the program, I had no intention [on working] in finance,” she said. ZDNet. “None of the opportunities I have now would have been possible without Greenwood,” she added. Wayne recently graduated from Bradley University and has accepted a position with Citigroup as an analyst.
Increased CVs in the pipeline
Girls Who Invest (GWI) founder Seema Hingorani originally wanted to be a lawyer. Before entering law school, she held a path-changing job on Wall Street and found her passion in asset management. After working her way up to CIO of Citi in New York, she began to realize how underrepresented women were across all asset classes. “I used to sit mostly with men and ask where the women are on your investment teams,” she explained on the website. It seems that women were not applying in large numbers. Hingorani suspected there might be more to the problem. She started GWI to meet the challenges.
Founded in 2015, GWI partners with over 100 companies to spread the word and convince women that careers in finance can be challenging, rewarding and impactful. Their ambitious goal is to recruit women into positions managing 30% of global investment capital by 2030. “Gender diversity matters and it makes business sense. With more genre diversity, you get better results,” Hingorani added.
To achieve this goal, GWI offers a 10-week paid internship for second-year students. Like Project Greenwood, the GWI Summer Intensive Program offers four weeks of teacher training with a six-week internship. Participants are introduced to the fundamentals of finance and investing, allowing them to explore careers in finance. Meagan Loyst, a finance and information systems major at Boston College, had the opportunity to assess first-hand the pros and cons of working in the hedge fund industry due to her experience with GWI. “It broadened my perspective on the opportunities available in finance, especially as an undergraduate fresh out of school,” Loyst explained.
To date, GWI has worked with over 800 women from 193 universities and colleges. Eighty percent of their participants remain in the financial sector.
Build a bridge to Wall Street
Troy Prince had a similar experience. Raised in the Bronx, he landed on Wall Street and grew tired of being one of the only people of color on the floor. After a 25-year career in the financial industry, he launched Wall Street Bound in 2019 to empower young people and address the lack of diversity he encountered. “Wall Street Bound was founded on the idea that talent and IQ are universally distributed, but opportunity is not,” Prince said.
Wall Street Bound has an express focus on recruiting, training, mentoring, and preparing diverse populations for a career in financial services. They address this by offering three programs for college students:
- Introduction to Wall Street Bootcamp – A 25-hour introductory course in capital markets and careers
- Wall Street Direct – 10-Week Technical and Non-Technical Training Program
- Diverse Trader Training Program — One-year training program allowing participants to manage a real capital account of $250,000
Participants who successfully complete either program may apply for an education grant of $2,500.
With the help of its business and academic partners, Wall Street Bound aims to impact the lives of 10,000 young people by 2030. Their intention is to build a pipeline from economically and racially diverse communities to the sector financial services and investment culture. To date, Wall Street Bound has served 300 students and plans to double that reach in 2022. “We get applications from every corner of the globe. The hunger is unbelievable. We know that message resonates around the world,” said added Prince.