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Qualified Black candidates are plentiful, just not yet represented

Darryl Blakey, policy advisor at the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, hopes young employees get chances they deserve

24 September 2020

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darryl blakey
Darryl Blakey, Policy Advisor to the Chairman and Associate Director of the Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs at the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

What drew you to the derivatives industry?

My career in the industry officially began when I was afforded the opportunity to work in Congress for the House Committee on Agriculture under the leadership of then-chairman Mike Conaway.  During my three-year tenure on the Committee, I had the opportunity to work on the financial services portfolio, which included oversight of the U.S. Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and to gain a better understanding of the derivatives industry, its stakeholders, and its impact on both the U.S. and the global economy. 

Who have been your role models and the most influential people in your career?

I have been very fortunate to have the support of many people along the way, but a few stand out as the most important to my career. The first is Colin Woodall, the CEO of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA). During my first trek to D.C. as an intern with NCBA, I learned how national policy is created, which opened the door for me to start working in Congress.  Scott Graves, who was a staff director under Ag Committee Chairman Conaway, opened the door for me to work with legislators and stakeholders in the derivatives industry.  Finally, De'Ana Dow, who has immense knowledge about the industry, and who continues to do great work for Black and minority professionals in the Washington, D.C. area, has shared her vast experience and expertise with me.  All three of these individuals have been great mentors to me.  I hope to continue learning and leaning on them for advice throughout my career. 

How have things changed in terms of diversity and inclusion since you started working?

As someone in the early stages of my career, it would be difficult to discuss the shifts that have taken place since the 1990s. However, I believe that the prevalence of unconscious bias continues to negatively impact the progress on diversity and inclusion of Black people in the financial sector.  I think that many sectors including the financial services industry should make it a priority to support diversity training, recruitment, and promotion of Black men and women.   

 

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What do you see as the biggest barriers to Black and ethnic minority professionals growing into leadership roles?

Decision-makers within the government and the private sector need to focus on creating the tools to support the many qualified and ambitious Black professionals engaged in the financial services industry.  I would like to commend the bipartisan effort in Congress to strengthen the CFTC’s Office of Minority Women and Inclusion, as well as the support that is there on both sides to allocate dollars to create more paid internships that will increase the diverse pool of applicants.  Offering a paid experience will open the door to many students that otherwise would not be able to come to Washington, D.C.  Without this opportunity, many young professionals may not even see the derivatives industry as an option right after college or graduate school. If we want to open the door to people, we have to make it a realistic goal for them to join our industry. 

Tell us one thing you hope for future generations.

I have had opportunities that give me hope for the future.  Although I’ve been blessed, I am very aware that widespread diversity issues still need to be worked on. There are times when I look around a room and I'm the only person of color at the table. This is not something that I alone experience.  Many may have read the recent report by Dr. Chris Brummer titled “What do the Data Reveal about (the Absence of Black) Financial Regulators?” The paper highlights the unfortunate fact that there has never been a Black chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), or CFTC.  There are tons of qualified Black and minority candidates out there, but you don't see them represented well at the top of the org chart.  Collectively, decision-makers have to recognize that this is an issue and then work to make a change. In my career, people did exactly that for me, which gave me the opportunity to work on national policy, represent an industry, and sit on councils and roundtables. I am a prime example of the opportunity and the hope that the Black community can and should look forward to. 

Darryl Blakey serves as Policy Advisor to the Chairman and Associate Director of the Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. In his role, Mr. Blakey assists and advises Chairman Heath Tarbert and other senior executives on the CFTC’s policy and legislative initiatives.

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