It’s a classic story. Sháka Rasheed grew up in inner city Miami—tough neighborhood, violent city, single mother. Both his cousin and good friend were shot while he was in middle school. There is a well-trodden path for young black men in poor urban America. Rasheed was on it. But then in seventh grade, Mr. Johnson, his science teacher, pulled him aside one day after class. “You are making excellent grades in spite of yourself,” the teacher told him. It was enough. Five years later, Rasheed graduated high school with high honors, president of the class of 1989. Morehouse College followed, and later, Harvard Business School. He’s now a managing director and head of alternatives at Lazard Asset Management.
But Rasheed’s story is no classic: He works in asset management.
Nearly 90% of senior money managers in the US are white. African Americans make up 12% of the nation’s workforce, and but hold 1% of top investment roles. The same story goes for Hispanic and Latino populations, which account for 16% of the overall job market and 2% of high-level investors. Women represent 47% of the workforce, and 18% of asset managers. Serve your country in the military, and your chances of finding employment in financial services drops by about 30%. For people with disabilities, their likelihood falls by roughly 13%. Those who see asset management as a true meritocracy have either failed to consider the next step in their logic, or—more alarmingly—they have considered it.