The financial services industry in the US has traditionally been a predominantly white-dominated sector (think trading scenes in movies like “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “Boiler Room”). But a growing number of organizations are forming across the U.S. to encourage women and people of color to consider careers in the financial services industry. ZDNet found three nonprofits that are making their way toward diversifying the financial industry.
Let’s start with the good news. Gender-based diversity among entry-level positions in the financial services industry is leveling off. In banking services, for example, women accounted for 52% of those positions according to a 2021 report by McKinsey and Leanin.org.
Such gains are also passed on to senior management — to some extent. In 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 has 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 lack of diversity
Bevon Joseph began his information technology career on the trading floors of New York and Chicago repairing equipment. He got a crash course in investing from his proximity to traders and the connections he developed. However, during a career that spanned 20 years in the financial services sector, including a position as CTO at a hedge fund, he noticed a glaring lack of diversity in his industry.
Joseph, founder and CEO, started the Greenwood Project in 2016 to expose more black and Latino youth to careers in the finance and fintech industry. The non-profit organization is named after the industrious community of Tulsa, Oklahoma built by the children of enslaved people that thrived until the infamous massacre of 1921. They recruit high school, high school and college students to participate in paid summer positions. The high school program, which currently only operates in Chicago, is a six-week paid summer job where students learn to code and analyze stocks with investment bankers from companies like Goldman Sachs. “Kids are exposed to as many fintech careers as possible early so they can make an informed decision when they go to college. Too many kids don’t pay attention to fintech or finance,” said Joseph ZDNet. He firmly believes that young people cannot be what they do not see.
Greenwood College Scholars are recruited nationally. This year, 75 students are attending the four-week training program located at DePaul University. From there, they will complete a six-week paid internship at a financial services firm in Chicago, New York, Denver, or Los Angeles. Next year, the lucky interns will have the opportunity to travel to London. Currently the Greenwood project works with 50 corporate partners including Citadel Securities. “The Greenwood Project’s high school program reaches students at a crucial point in their academic journey, when skills-based training and exposure to new opportunities can open pathways to success,” said Gerald Beeson, Citadel COO 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 sector. Fifty percent of their recruits are women. Brandy Wayne was part of the initial cohort for the high school program in the summer of 2019. “When I joined the program, I had no intention of [on working] in finance,” she said ZDNet. “None of the opportunities I have now would be possible without Greenwood,” she added. Wayne recently graduated from Bradley University and accepted a position as an analyst at Citigroup.
An increase in the resume is being prepared
The founder of Girls Who Invest (GWI), Seema Hingorani, initially wanted to be a lawyer. Before attending law school, she took a path-changing job on Wall Street and found her passion in asset management. After working her way up to CIO at Citi in New York, she began to realize how underrepresented women were in all asset classes. “I would sit down with most men and ask where are the women on your investment teams,” she shared on the website. It seems that women did not apply for positions 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 firms to spread the word and convince women that careers in finance can be stimulating, rewarding and impactful. Their ambitious goal is to employ women in positions managing 30% of the world’s investable capital by 2030. “Gender diversity is important and makes good business sense. With more gender diversity, you get better results,” added Hingorani.
To achieve this goal, GWI offers a 10-week paid internship for second-year students. Like the Greenwood Project, the GWI Summer Intensive Program offers four weeks of educational training with six weeks of internship. Participants are introduced to basic financial and investment principles that enable them to explore careers in finance. Meagan Loyst, a finance and information systems major at Boston College, had the opportunity to assess firsthand the pros and cons of working in the hedge fund industry because of her experience with GWI. “It broadened my perspective on the opportunities available in finance, especially as a student right out of school,” Loyst said.
To date, GWI has worked with more than 800 women from 193 universities and colleges. Eighty percent of their participants remain in the financial industry.
Building 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 few people of color on the trading floor. After a 25-year career in the financial industry, he launched Wall Street Bound in 2019 to empower young people and impact the lack of diversity he encountered. “Wall Street Bound was founded on the idea that talent and IQ are universally distributed, and opportunity is not,” Prince said.
Wall Street Bound is specifically focused on recruiting, training, mentoring and preparing diverse populations for careers in financial services. They approach this by providing three programs for students:
- Intro to Wall Street Bootcamp — 25-hour capital markets course and career introduction
- Wall Street Direct — 10-week technical and soft skills training program
- Cross Trader Training Program — A one-year training program that allows participants to manage a $250,000 live equity account
Participants who successfully complete either program can apply for a $2,500 educational scholarship.
With the help of its corporate and academic partners, Wall Street Bound aims to impact the lives of 10,000 young people by 2030. They aim to build a conduit from economically and racially diverse communities to the financial services industry and investment culture. To date, Wall Street Bound has served 300 students and expects to double that reach in 2022. “We’re getting applications from all over the world. The hunger is incredible. We know this message resonates globally,” Prince added.