WASHINGTON - House Banking Committee Chairman Henry B. Gonzalez demanded Wednesday that the Federal Reserve reform its hiring practices.

The Texas Democrat also issued a study critical of the central bank's record of employing women and minorities.

The 98-page study called on top Fed officials to act immediately to hire and promote more minority group members and women. It also recommended that the central bank change the way its district bank presidents are hired.

"Women and minorities at the Federal Reserve are almost completely excluded from high salaries and promotions," Rep. Gonzalez said. "This comes as no surprise, since it appears the Federal Reserve banks are merely paying lip service to the concepts of equal employment opportunity and affirmative action."

Few at the Top

The study - "Status of Equal Employment Opportunity at the Federal Reserve: Diversity Still Lacking" - found that the Fed's board of governors and district banks have no minority group members and only a handful of women at the "senior officer" level. Of the 10% of board employees with the highest salaries, 6% were from minorities, and 18% were female.

"The report demonstrates that minorities and women are consistently underrepresented in the highest-paid and most important decision-making positions at the board and reserve banks, a condition that unfortunately also exists at other federal banking regulatory agencies," Rep. Gonzalez wrote in a letter to members of his committee.

The report came as the Clinton administration stepped up its search for a governor to replace Wayne Angell, whose term expires in January.

In keeping with the President's goal of diversification, the administration has made no secret of its desire to replace Mr. Angell with a woman or member of a minority group.

The Lineup

The Fed board now comprises six white men and one white woman. In addition, all 12 district bank presidents are white males.

In the Fed's history, Rep. Gonzalez said, one of the 110 bank presidents has been a woman; none has been from a minority.

Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan has already acknowledged that the central bank has a poor hiring record. In October testimony before the House Banking committee, he said the Fed needed to change "the inadequate pace at which women and minorities have moved into top echelons."

"We share your concerns in this reg," he said, "and are working diligently to improve opportunities for women and minorities throughout the system."

Steps Taken

Fed officials said that they have already taken steps to diversify the staff. For example, the board has set up a committee to scrutinize the Fed's record and come up with recommendations, said Portia W. Thompson, Fed equal employment officer.

"We have a lot of programs that are in place, some of which are successful," she said. But she added that many obstacles remain to ensuring that minority group members and women are adequately represented. For example, the pool of minority economists from which the Fed can recruit is quite small, she said.

But Rep. Gonzalez's report called that response "incomprehensible" and suggested that the Fed recruit from minority colleges.

Many activists argue that, unless minority group members and women are represented at the highest levels of the banking agencies, government efforts to uproot discrimination will be inadequate.

"There have been a number of occasions when I've listened to the board of governors discuss civil rights issues and been so struck by their limited view of the world," said Deborah B. Goldberg of the Washington-based Center for Community Change.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.