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Rep. Maxine Waters, a California Democrat, warned corporate American to fix its diversity problem because she chairs the powerful U.S. House Financial Services Committee, and she’s not afraid to use her gavel.

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Her remarks came at the 50th NAACP Image Awards Saturday when she won the prestigious Chairman’s Award, which is bestowed on agents of change for their exemplary public service.

“To America’s institutions that have historically overlooked women and minorities – the jig is up. I have created the first Subcommittee on Diversity and Inclusion in the history of the U.S. Congress. I have the gavel, and I’m not afraid to use it,” Waters said in her acceptance speech.

After Democrats swept House Republicans out of power in the 2018 midterm elections, Waters made history on Jan. 3 as the first woman and first African-American chair of the House Financial Services Committee. That enables her to turn up the heat on American’s wealthiest corporations.

The lack of diversity at Fortune 500 companies is shameful. About 73 percent of whites hold senior executive positions, according to Fortune. Asians represent 21 percent of business leaders, while Latinx and Blacks hold just 3 percent and 2 percent of those positions respectively.

White male dominance on corporate boards drew national attention last June when Mellody Hobson moved up into the role of Starbucks’ vice chair after the departure of Executive Chairman Howard Schultz.

She is one of the few African-Americans who holds multiple board memberships on the nation’s wealthiest companies. Hobson, who has served on Starbucks’ board since 2005, has defied the odds. JP Morgan Chase & Co. also appointed her to its board, and she has been on Estee Lauder‘s board since 2004.

Behind the scenes, some firms were reportedly panicking at the thought of Congress putting them under a public microscope over their hiring practices.

“They have a right to be nervous. They should feel the fire is getting started and will burn, at least for two years, and hopefully beyond,” Missouri’s Democratic Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, who is a member of the financial services committee and the Congressional Black Caucus, said in January.

The NAACP named Jay-Z as its coveted President’s Award winner, a prize that recognizes the honoree’s distinguished record in public service. Radio legend Tom Joyner received the Vanguard Award.

“It’s a new day in America. Women, people of color, LGBTQ Americans, and millennials have growing power – and my committee is a testament to it. We have the gavel, and we’re not afraid to use it,” she reiterated.


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