SAN FRANCISCO/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Federal Reserve, long criticized for being too white and male, crossed a substantial milestone last year: for the first time in its 107-year history, white men held fewer than half of board seats at the Fed’s 12 regional outposts.
The shift, reinforced this January with a fresh round of appointments, has drawn little notice outside the Fed itself. But it is a window into how the U.S. central bank is setting the table for change among top policymakers, where progress toward diversity has been slow.
The push has been driven by the Fed’s own acknowledgement that its leaders don’t look like the nation for which they set monetary policy, and by political pressure to fix that, according to interviews with several current and former Fed policymakers. It also reflects, they said, the conviction that bringing a broader slice of America into the Fed’s boardrooms will result in a keener grasp of economic conditions and better policy decisions.
Board members are not policymakers themselves. But they share their perspectives on the economy in regular meetings with each of the 12 bank presidents who, along with five Fed policymakers in Washington, set the nation’s interest rates.
They matter because the boards, or more precisely the two-thirds of directors who are not bankers, hire Fed bank presidents.
Among this particularly influential boardroom subset, white men are now outnumbered by women and minorities by more than two to one, a Reuters analysis shows.