Treasury Meeting – Women in Finance – Sad Face!

I was able to tune in to the Treasury Webcast I mentioned yesterday in my entry but I am sorry to say, major disappointment. I actuallly feel bad saying this as I know the intention was so good and I have much respect for the people participating.

Why the sad face? Because I was so hopeful that after a horrendous financial crisis characterized by almost a complete lack of women in positions of power and influence that this convening would lead to some powerful statements and better yet, action steps, that would help diversify the power structure in finance. Instead most of the discussion seemed trapped in the same old. It was a conversation that has been had over and over again in a million different places. Aren’t we past saying that “well a good thing about being a women in finance is that when you go to a conference there isn’t a line for the ladies room” and “yes girls can be good at math.” ( I may be paraphrasing)

Yes of course we need more mentoring of young women, yes men need to get over their biases, yes we need to encourage more young women to get MBAs, yes people need more financial education, yes women need to know their power, but do we need to gather the most powerful women in finance with the Treasury Secretary in a live web-cast to be talking about it, or are there other things slightly more important? How about a lively debate around demanding financial instiutions diversify their boards? How about a DEEPER conversation about the evidence, the research, that supports the position that adding women in critical mass improves decision making? How about speaking truth about the ‘boys clubs’ that exist at most financial institutions and how to break through the barriers that continue to exist once and for all? How about brainstorming concrete ways the government working with the private sector can get more money to women entrepreneurs because we KNOW women face barriers in accessing capital? How about getting MEN in the room that actually have the power to change things? We skimmed the surface on all these topics but it truly is time for action!

I really don’t mean to be negative as a convening like this is a positive step, but I worry that the box is now checked for having the conversation about women and finance. I am frustrated. We have the evidence ( see the NCRW report and more ) that women face real barriers to entry in finance, and that adding talented women could lead to a more stable system overall, but it could be that we have a whole lot of talk and nothing really happens, and then we have another financial meltdown and people say once again what could be different next time.

Here are some things that we could do:
– Adopt a Critical Mass Principle where all public financial institutions ( esp those that received tarp funds) commit to a minimum 30% women on corporate boards.
– All government oversight committees abide by that standard as well.
– Government run pension funds ensure their management selection process is free from bias and set a target for allocating assets to diverse managers.
-Public/Private Partnerships are explored that help get private investment dollars to women entrepreneurs.

I am sure I could come up with a few more but this blog is turning in to a rant… Have a great night.

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