Should the federal government lend women and minorities some muscle to break Wall Street’s glass ceiling? That’s what a section of last week’s financial overhaul bill aims to do, by granting the federal government authority to end contracts with financial firms that fail to ensure “fair inclusion” of women and minorities. Opponents say the provision’s vague language make it tantamount to quotas, while proponents see it as an overdue wake-up call to a heavily white and male industry with a reputation for elitism. The section sets not quotas, or even goals, but it does establish at least 20 new Offices of Minority and Women Inclusion across the Treasury Department, which already has three such offices. Advocates of the provision say the current offices have no teeth and that minority and women-owned businesses didn’t receive an adequate share of the contracts awarded through the $700 billion bank bailout, while the collapse of the sub prime mortgage market disproportionately hit African-American and Latino homeowners. Should the federal government take means to correct for this and if so, does this measure go far enough?
Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, which pressed for the bill language
Gail Heriot, Senate appointee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and professor of law at University of San Diego Law School
Gary Acosta, co-founder of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP), which lobbied for the bill’s diversity section