In a company-wide memo, Wells Fargo Chief Executive Officer, Charlie Scharf, explained that the lack of diversity at the bank is a result of a “limited pool of Black talent.”
“While it might sound like an excuse, the unfortunate reality is that there is a very limited pool of Black talent to recruit from,” Scharf said in the memo.
His comments quickly caught the media’s attention and became a trending topic shortly after the news hit. Many people were furious about Scharf’s comments and took to social media to express their frustration.
“Wells Fargo literally just admitted racial profiling and discrimination on a national platform,” one user wrote.
Another user wrote, “Wells Fargo’s repertoire usually include stuff like creating fake accounts, leading investors astray, and securities fraud, but I see they have added racist hiring discrimination to their arsenal.”
“Wells Fargo CEO, Charlie Scharf, is right about one thing,” a third user wrote. “When it comes to creating millions on fraudulent savings and checking accounts and charging customers millions in fees, there’s a limited pool of Black talent to recruit from because white collar crime is a special skill.”
After receiving much scrutiny for his baseless claim regarding the lack of Black talent, Scharf issued an apology.
“I apologize for making an insensitive comment reflecting my own unconscious bias,” he said. “There are many talented diverse individuals working at Wells Fargo (WFC) and throughout the financial services industry and I never meant to imply otherwise. It's clear to me that, across the industry, we have not done enough to improve diversity, especially at senior leadership levels. And there is no question Wells Fargo has to make meaningful progress to increase diverse representation. As I said in June, I have committed that this time must be different."
Racism and discrimination aren’t new, they’re just now being caught on camera and this is a prime example. It’s no surprise that a CEO of a fortune 500 company feels that there is a limited pool of Black talent, the surprise is that his comments are public. In 2018, just two years ago, only 2% of Google’s workforce was Black and only 3% of Twitter’s workforce was black, so this has a been an ongoing issue where companies are so-called “struggling” to recruit Black talent.
I’ve heard countless stories of my Black friends who have degrees, are more than qualified for certain jobs and were denied an interview from Wells Fargo, turn around and click the “White” checkbox under the “Race” category and are able to secure an interview, and, in some cases, get the job.
The issue at hand is that big tech and fortune 500 companies have limited their recruitment efforts to Ivy League candidates or those they may have a social or personal connection with, i.e. your dad and I went to college together. Historically Black Colleges and Universities, HBCUs, produce 22% of Black college graduates with bachelor’s degrees. 40% of Black college graduates are members of Congress, 12.5% are CEOs, 40% are engineers, 50% are professors at non-HBCUs, 50% are lawyers, and 80% are judges, according to a report by the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. Additionally, HBCU graduates are ranked as having the highest rate of financial, career, and emotional well-being of college graduates, according to a survey by the U.S.A. Gallup Poll. HBCU students represent some of the top talent among prospective job candidates, yet top companies like Wells Fargo, Google, Twitter, and others seem to have issues recruiting Black talent.
In the words of Ken Bacon, a former mortgage industry executive on the boards of Comcast Corp, Ally Financial Inc, and Welltower Inc, “If people say they can’t find Black talent, they either aren’t looking hard enough or don’t want to find it.”
In this case, I believe it’s the ladder.