Conyers presses Federal Reserve for more diversity

Keith Laing
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Rep. John Conyers, the longest serving member of Congress, is leading a group of 127 lawmakers who are urging the Federal Reserve System to add more diversity to its leadership ranks and become more attuned to economic problems in minority communities.

The lawmakers complained that all but one of the 12 Federal Reserve Bank presidents across the nation are white and 10 of them are men. In addition, they said none of the current Federal Reserve presidents are African-American or Latino, and the system has never had a regional president who is black.

“Far too often, the voices of minorities are silenced because they aren’t sitting at the table,” Conyers, the longtime Democrat and African-American Detroiter, said in a statement. “The Federal Reserve needs leadership that models the diversity that exists in this Nation.”

The Federal Reserve has banks in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Richmond, Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Dallas and San Francisco. Detroit is part of the Chicago bank.

Conyers said the diversity of the bank’s regional presidents is important to Detroit and other urban cities, however.

“Detroit and cities across the country with high minority populations have the highest unemployment rates and will be harmed if the Federal Reserve does not consider our needs when they make key policy decisions,” he said. “Increasing diversity at the Federal Reserve will help ensure that the needs of people of color, women, labor, and consumers are part of the crucial conversation in our nation’s central bank.”

A spokesman for the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors said the system has been committed to bolstering diversity and continues to aim for increasing ethnic and gender diversity.

“Minority representation on Reserve Bank and Branch boards has increased from 16 percent in 2010 to 24 percent in 2016,” spokesman Dave Skidmore said in a Thursday statement. “The proportion of women directors has risen from 23 percent to 30 percent over the same period. Currently, 46 percent of all directors are diverse in terms of race and/or gender (with a director who is both female and a minority counted only one time).

“We are striving to continue that progress.”

The letter, which is signed by 116 House members and 11 Senate members, is being spearheaded by Conyers and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts.

Other Michigan representatives who signed the letter were Brenda Lawerence, D-Southfield; Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak; Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township; and Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn. Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont was also a signatory.

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Twitter: @Keith_Laing