We’re often told that all you have to do in order to succeed in America is work hard and play by the rules, and that those who go into lucrative sectors like the finance industry have fantastic odds at making it big. Despite the alluring promises surrounding America’s financial industry, however, discrimination against people of color still runs rampant everywhere you look. It’s time we start looking at the everyday bigotry that’s still holding our economy back. Here’s why discrimination against people of color in the financial industry must stop, and the steps that will need to be taken before we arrive at a brighter future.

It’s an open secret in the United States that white entrepreneurs flourish much more often than their Black or Hispanic counterparts. This isn’t because they’re working harder, but simply because people of color face significant disadvantages when it comes to the basics of operating a business, like securing a loan for their company. Research has consistently proven that Black and Hispanic business owners face intense discrimination when seeking small business loans, meaning it shouldn’t be surprising when these entrepreneurs fail more often than their White competitors in the marketplace.

Despite progressive accomplishments over the past few decades, it can still be a struggle to operate a business as a person of color in the United States. The financial industry routinely gives the cold shoulder to struggling Black business owners who are need of extra capital to keep the lights on, for instance, but even something as simple as the way your name sounds can handicap your career if you’re from a certain ethnic background.

Given that it’s long been established that minorities who “whiten” their names on their resumes have a better chance at securing a job, it shouldn’t be too shocking that the financial industry is lacking any sort of diversity. The Harvard Business School found that your resume and the way interviewers interpret your heritage matters much more than many of us think. Until this trend is reversed, you’ll see people of color getting shut out of the job market and the associated higher salaries that come with lucrative financial positions.

The financial industry, of course, is often highly political in a way that few other sectors of the economy are. After all, the rich and the financial institutions which govern much of our daily economic activity of people have special access to the halls of power, another place where people of color are routinely underrepresented. If you’re familiar with how few people of color have been sent to Congress, you won’t be shocked to discover that the people calling the shots on Wall Street aren’t the most diverse bunch in the world.

If the United States of America is to retain its position as the world’s leading economic power, we must work towards a more equitable future. Far too many teenagers of color in this day and age dismiss any possibility that they’d secure a job in the world of finance because they can’t find role models who look like them. Unless we get serious about fixing the racial disparities in hiring practices, we can kiss any hopes of diversity in the financial sector goodbye.

Recent research has warned that people of color are falling further and further behind across America. Black households, for instance, are expected to see their overall level of wealth dwindle over the next few decades. Racial inequalities and political oppression often stem from the economic inequalities that define our living standards, which is why it’s so crucial more people begin to talk about the discrimination against people of color in finance.

Unfortunately, change must be fostered from the top down in order to have any serious impact, which is why we should expect a long and bitter fight ahead. Rest assured, equality in the financial sector is very possible, but those who are currently enjoying their hold on the reins of power likely won’t be sacrificing their immense influence over the economy anytime soon. People of color and their allies around the world should be lobbying to make it easier to hire minorities and work towards providing scholarship opportunities for young scholars of color interested in finance.

Discrimination against people of color in the financial sector represents a broader, insidious trend of bigotry across the American economy. While we like to talk about the vibrant nature of our economy, it’s truly stifled by bigoted, discrimination-based ideas that have no place in the 21st century. If Americans are serious about achieving new levels of economic prosperity and want some form of social equality to materialize within their lifetimes, they need to focus on combatting discrimination against people of color in the world of finance.  

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