The push for more diversity among endowment asset managers has a high-profile advocate, the Rev. Al Sharpton.
The president and founder of the National Action Network is using his considerable talent for drawing attention to racial justice issues to put universities and endowments on the spot.
Working with the Diverse Asset Managers Initiative in Washington, Mr. Sharpton has been writing to leading American university and endowment officials, asking them to assess the diversity of their investment managers, and to do better. His latest letter Nov. 11 to the presidents of Amherst College, Amherst, and Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif., ask for "meaningful and specific" data on the racial and gender makeup of endowment managers by Dec. 1.
Mr. Sharpton's letter praised the University of California and Georgetown University and for releasing "in-depth, unprecedented reports" with detailed racial and gender statistics on endowment managers and steps they are taking to improve diversity.
He also noted that two dozen universities and colleges have responded to a 2020 letter from House Democrats Emanuel Cleaver II of Missouri and Joseph Kennedy III of Massachusetts seeking diversity data. Three responding universities detailed specific targets or projections for future allocations to diverse-owned firms, while some endowments were not tracking investments with diverse-owned firms.
Stanford University CIO Rob Wallace responded to the congressional letter, reporting that approximately 25% of the active investment portfolio value is placed with external firms led or co-led by women or members of racial and ethnic minorities. Now, Mr. Sharpton wrote, "we ask you to make these figures more granular."
"We understand that Stanford's numbers will be far from ideal. But no institution in the nation has exemplary diversity data. It's important to release comprehensive data to demonstrate a commitment to transparency and improvement. Once we have our starting point, we can take more effective steps to correct the problem," he wrote.
Mr. Sharpton "has been particularly effective in sending the message that the leaders of these institutions need to take charge, and stop letting their CIOs disrespect people of color and women, which is what's sadly happening," said Robert Raben, executive director of DAMI, in an email.
Amherst and Stanford officials could not be reached for comment by press time.