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Don't let your company be the next Wells Fargo when it comes to searching for Black talent.

Updated: Sep 28, 2020

How many of you have heard the saying, "you find what you're looking for"? I know I have, and I've even said it a few times. It's true, in general, people find what they focus on. If you are looking for something hard enough, you are bound to find it. That's especially true in the stories we tend to tell ourselves. For example, if a kid says over and over again that they aren't good at math, it's been proven that their scores in math will decrease. If an adult who has been struggling to lose weight says, they are doomed to be fat forever, it becomes harder for them to lose weight. That is why the CEO of Wells Fargo, Charles Scharf's, statement is particularly problematic. In a recent MSNBC News story, he was quoted as saying, "Why it might sound like an excuse, the unfortunate reality is that there is a very limited pool of Black talent to recruit from.". If that one sentence becomes the accepted narrative about recruiting Black talent, they will never be effective at recruiting Black talent.

Before I say anything else let me be very clear and say, that is simply not true! While the pool may not be as wide, it is absolutely as deep. As someone who has recruited for thousands of positions, I have never had a hard time finding qualified Black talent...because I looked for them. I knew a diverse slate of candidates was good for the organization, so I made sure one was always available, and it was not hard but it did take some deliberate actions so while I have never worked for or with Wells Fargo, I can guess some of the possible reasons their CEO thinks it’s a difficult task.

1. They have not done the work to create an inclusive environment.

Consider this an, if you build it they will come scenario. Companies that have a reputation for treating minorities and diverse talent well, attract more minorities and diverse talent. No one wants to work in a place where they may not be accepted, appreciated and valued. Companies must clean up their in-house practices and they will see that it benefits their current employees as well as future prospects.

2. The search for “diversity” has been limited to white women

Women, regardless of race, especially at upper levels of an organization, absolutely represent diversity BUT when a company only brags about the number of females in the company (for Wells Fargo it’s 57%) and steers their diversity discussions to the number of women on the board or in the C-Suite, they often give themselves a pass on other types of diversity including racial, socio-economic, age, etc. Focusing on one area of diversity, to the the exclusion of others, is NOT true diverstiy.

3. The search for qualified Black talent has been limited to HBCUs

Let me first say, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are a WONDERFUL place to recruit talented Black professionals and absolutely must be a part of your recruiting process, but they cannot be your only source for locating Black talent. Less than 20% of Black college graduates, graduated from an HBCU. That means you are missing out on 80% of the degreed Black talent in this country. And while we are on the subject of degrees, not every position in an organization requires a college degree. This country has become degree snobs, and if most of us are honest, our jobs don’t actually use the majority of the knowledge we gained in college.

4. Their diversity resources are directed towards supporting organizations not individuals

I just posted about this! I am shocked by the number of major corporations who funnel millions of dollars into external diversity work but spend a tiny fraction of that, if any at all, on their internal programs, policies, and people. You know the companies I’m talking about. They appear on the cover of magazines being honored for their diversity efforts but when you read the article their work is centered around, donating to several walks or supporting various non-profits that focus on marginalized populations. It’s almost as if they are saying, “we want to diversify the world…just not OUR world”.

While I cannot speak directly to Wells Fargo, I can say their head of diversity, Jimmie Paschall, is titled EVP, Head of Enterprise Diversity & Inclusion and Strategic Philanthropy. Her job is largely focused on giving money away outside of the company, not structuring the internal workings to promote diversity. That is not her fault, unfortunately, many companies take an external approach to diversity because it makes it sound good, without actually impacting their day to day.

These are just a few reasons and YES, I have recommendations and ways companies can overcome all of these but as my favorite t-shirt says, “You can pick my brain once the invoice is paid”. Whether it is me or some other highly qualified and experienced diversity expert, PLEASE don’t let your company be the next Wells Fargo. Ask the right questions, implement the right changes, and watch the rewards come rolling in.


Author and Our Truths founder, Christy Pruitt-Haynes combined her 20 years of leadership in organizations including The Memphis Grizzlies, MTV Networks and Infiniti with an education in Human Resources and Organizational Development to create Christy Pruitt-Haynes Consulting and change the professional landscape for women and people of color while helping organizations achieve excellence.  This TEDx talk giving executive, wife, mother, aunt, daughter, sister and friend loves travel, laughing uncontrollably and losing herself in great music.

Theme song: I was here by Beyoncé

Superpower: Resourcefulness

Proudest moments: The births of my daughter Christiana, niece Nia and organization Our Truths



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