As the inaugural director of the Office of Minority and Women Inclusion (OMWI) at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Pamela Gibbs has used her background in civil rights to focus on creating new paths to workplace diversity and equality in the financial services industry.
What is the OMWI?
The OMWI was created by a provision of the Dodd-Frank Act aimed at introducing more women and minorities to the male-dominated world of finance. Similar diversity-monitoring offices were also established in other regulatory agencies including the Treasury Department, the FDIC, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, charged with overseeing diversity in management, employment and business activities in the SEC.
Currently, the SEC’s workforce is comprised of 46 percent women and 32 percent minorities. To address this underrepresentation, Gibbs works to reach out to external organizations and minorities to share the SEC’s mission and work.
“I believe [that], in order to address areas of underrepresentation, there is no question that we need to take proactive steps to conduct outreach and to ensure we have eliminated any barriers for leveling the playing field for access to opportunities,” Gibbs says.
The OMWI and higher education
One of Gibbs’ main outreach strategies includes making contact with students at historically Black colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, majority-minority institutions and women colleges.
“I believe it starts here, [in college],” says Gibbs. “In order to have a career in the financial services industry, you have to start the preparation process as early as possible. This is why I find it so interesting and fascinating for me to be able to connect and expose these schools to careers, opportunities and tools that are necessary to be successful.”
Since its formation in 2011, the U.S. SEC OMWI has primarily targeted graduate students for student outreach. Over the next two years, Gibbs plans to raise SEC awareness among undergraduate students at institutions to guide their academic paths toward the securities industry. She also plans to create a program imitating the S.E.C.’s two-day on-site mentorship program for high school students for college students. Above all, Gibbs hopes to find more ways to educate minorities and women on the challenges and opportunities in the securities industry.
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