In the wake George Floyd and Breonna Taylor’s murders, organizations and leaders have been under increasing pressure to assess, acknowledge, and take action to reconcile gaps in diversity and inclusion.
I have been heartened by those who have humbly and vulnerably taken responsibility for their roles in advancing systematic white supremacy and oppression. But for every CEO who laments their failures, there is another making excuses.
Wells Fargo CEO Charlie Scharf is among the most of those leaders. This week, he blamed the lack of diversity at the bank on “a very limited pool of Black talent to recruit from.”
Since 2017, I have lead a high-performing team of digital experts. In that time, only two of my team members have been white. Five (more than half) have been Black.
I have not experienced this “limited pool of Black talent” of which Scharf complains.
The Black team members I have had the pleasure of working alongside for the last three and half years come from well-respected and successful organizations including Hilton, AT&T, and the Kidd Kraddick in the Morning show. One team member who moved on recently went to lead a group at USAA.
I did not hire these folks to meet a diversity quota. They were the most qualified applicants for the job.
The root of Wells Fargo’s diversity problem is not the lack of Black talent, but rather the lack of close personal and professional relationships with Black folks among white employees of Wells Fargo.
Every job offer I’ve accepted over the last 11 years happened after someone introduced me to or vouched for me with the hiring manager. And while that’s just my personal anecdote, it’s backed up by a long history of research showing the impact of networks on employment and inequality.
Because white folks are significantly more likely than people from other racial backgrounds to have very limited contact with people who are not from their own race, Black talent is systematically displaced in favor of white candidates.
White leaders who have an earnest interest in investing in diversity and inclusion must do the work of intentionally expanding their social networks to include people of color. Not by engaging in tokenism and befriending Black folks just to say you have Black friends, but by advocating for structural changes that reduce racial homogeneity in our neighborhoods, our schools, our houses of worship, and our workplaces.
Photo credit: blackillustrations.com