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How to Solve the “We Can’t Find Them” Problem

Although Wells Fargo has been in the news lately, “we can’t find them” is an excuse I’ve heard hundreds of times over the years as well. The difference between Wells Fargo and other companies whose leadership teams have never even tried (Google, Facebook, Oracle, the Academy Awards) is that Wells Fargo has the guts to be measured by its efforts. They’ve participated in in our Top 50 competition for more than a decade and have recently agreed to make their EEO-1 information public. 

“Can’t find them” is nonsense.  More than half of new entrants to the workforce are not white and women earn more than half of those with a bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees. Further, there is the “missing Einstein” segment of the population who has the mental capacity but not the exact training or education needed. And the metrics-driven evaluation of the companies we recognize as Top 50 or Noteworthy have absolutely “found them.”

 

So let’s address why “you can’t find them.”

You didn’t invite them or take care of the ones you have with the same effort as you did with the people you’re successful with. The people you’ve historically excluded don’t value or trust the recent invitation once it was (reluctantly, half-heartedly, on your terms) proffered.  

By the way, the all-white all-male (except for the lawyer and HR lead) in senior leadership on your website is a “tell.” 

Most diversity efforts fail because they are similar in one way. The almost all-white male leadership team paternalistically decides to “do” diversity, equity and inclusion except on their terms — no repercussions for failure and to be withdrawn at any time, at their sole discretion. It’s like a car dealership deciding to have a sale on a fleet of 2005 Pontiac Azteks which were suddenly discovered in Newark Airport long term parking lot Q. Who cares? 

To be successful, leadership has to take to heart that the absence of a negative is not a positive and after all that has been done for white men, everyone who is not a white man is going to want to understand what’s in it for them and their community. If you’re thinking that your company hasn’t done anything special for white men, please pick up a book on this list. Do yourself a favor and stop talking about diversity until you’re slightly competent.  

 

Which brings us to another important question: What are you doing to be successful?  

Do a DuckDuckGo search for “lost Einstein” and read up on the skills gap. Silicon Valley companies are the most egregious example of an industry which decided to ignore the lost Einsteins in their backyard in favor of poaching from each other and going offshore, but they’re not alone. 

Corporate citizenship will help you “find them.” Instead of mindlessly going to HBCUs to find Ph.D. physicists (true story), focus! Select the schools that both serve the underrepresented groups you lack and the majors you need. Some HBCUs and HSIs should fit that description, if you haven’t disingenuously and racistly narrowed your requirements. Develop a relationship. Endow scholarships and professor chairs. Get someone on the foundation board.  

Students, especially from financially under-resourced families, do not have the advice and mentoring they need to understand what it takes to exercise their potential.  

In closing, understand that success begets success, for every group. White Wharton School graduates cluster tightly in some organizations, especially private equity firms. I recently studied the upper management of an oil company — they are all engineers from one Texas school. Excluded and oppressed groups are no different, except they are often clustered for reasons of safety in addition to camaraderie.  

I’ll leave you with the words of a Black woman interviewed after the Sept, 29, 2020 Biden/Trump debate: “I’m undecided. And from my community, it’s a lot of us who are undecided because it’s ‘darned if we do and darned if we don’t’ — what do we get? We don’t get anything from this system.” 

 

For more on Wells Fargo CEO Charlie Scharf’s statement, click here. 

 

 

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