NPR : Tell Me More

Why Does Diversity In Banking Matter?

Play associated audio

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and all month long, Tell Me More will be speaking with "game changers" who trace their heritage to that part of the world. They're people who have made a difference in politics, culture, science and sports.

One of those game changers is Stuart Ishimaru. The longtime civil rights leader was just promoted to a new post, with a tough task ahead of him. He's responsible for measuring diversity in the financial world

Ishimaru was just named head of the Office of Women and Minority Inclusion, in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. That's the new government agency charged with overseeing banks, mortgage lenders and credit card companies with a particular focus on representing the interests of consumers.

In an interview with NPR's Michel Martin, Ishimaru says he's tasked with looking out for diversity within his own agency, as well as the entire financial sector.

Even though he won't have regulatory authority over the hiring practices of banks and other finance companies, Ishimaru says he needs to first start with the basics.

"You need to know what the parameters are," he says. "Where the opportunities are, whether people are getting opportunities, both men and women, people of color as well. A lot of that is a missing element."

During the recent financial crisis, women and people of color were often not represented in Wall Street, banks and other financial institutions, he says, but they were impacted the most. That's why Ishimaru feels diversity in the financial sector is crucial.

"The more people you get who are diverse," he says. "Usually it makes for a better work product because there are different perspectives being brought to the table."

Ishimaru jokes that he always "wanted to do good guy work." But his passion for civil rights comes from his parents' experience in World War II. Before he was born, his Japanese-American parents were taken from California to Utah, and placed in internment camps for the duration of the war.

"The whole issue of civil liberties, and civil rights being taken away during the war time, always affected me," says Ishimaru. "That was a fundamental defining experience for me, and the chance to give back in my work is very important."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Military Veterans Take On Zombies In 'Range 15'

Range 15 is a new zombie movie made by war veterans for veterans. It's a dark comedy with a cast that includes a Navy Cross recipient, amputees and William Shatner.
NPR

Chef Eddie Huang On Cultural Identity And 'Intestine Sticky Rice Hot Dog'

Huang and his brothers, Evan and Emery, headed to China to reconnect with their culture, to eat lots and lots of food — and to cook. He's documented his travels in his new book, Double Cup Love.
NPR

Family of Kate Steinle Files Wrongful Death Lawsuit

The suit alleges San Francisco's "sanctuary city" immigration policies led to Steinle's death, allegedly at the hands of a man in the U.S. illegally. It also blames two federal agencies.
NPR

North Korea Linked To $81 Million Bangladesh Bank Heist

Experts say code used by hackers in recent attacks on banks appears to be the same as code used in an attack on Sony Pictures which the FBI says was carried out by North Korea.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.