Acknowledging Your Bias Isn't Enough

by Julie Graber | on 29 Sep 2020

Charles Scharf, CEO of Wells-Fargo, recently got himself in trouble when he blamed a “very limited pool of [B]lack talent to recruit from," for the company's failure to reach its diversity goals. In attempting to back-pedal, Scharf has since apologized for the comment, blaming his “unconscious bias” for the insensitivity.

Score points for awareness. But don't stop there. 

The real culprit that Scharf needs to address is the structural bias that that’s built into our systems - the organizational culture and business practices that advantage some and disadvantage others. These standard operating procedures won’t result in diverse leadership no matter how much individual awareness we develop of the biases that affect how we view diverse talent.

Companies need to take apart the systems that are use to hire, promote, and reward employees and put them back together in ways that work for all kinds of people, not just white men. That takes a commitment that goes beyond the superficial changes most organizations are willing to make. Employee resource groups, targeted leadership programs, mentoring and sponsorship assignments, etc., are all well and good, and they may foster a temporary sense of inclusion, but what will ultimately matter is whether or not diverse talent is nurtured inside the organization. 

And before you think that’s too big a task to take on, consider this example from GoDaddy.

Like many companies, promotions at GoDaddy were handled on an “ad hoc” basis - it was left to the individual to express interest in these opportunities, and for a variety of reasons, the individuals most likely to express interest were men.

To address this, GoDaddy asked managers to consider all eligible employees as potential candidates - not just the ones who asked.

Promotions for women jumped 30% in a single year.

At GoDaddy, they changed the system for deciding promotions and the promotion rate for women jumped 30%.

It doesn’t take a genius to know that if Wells Fargo has a lack of Black talent in its pipeline, they aren't looking for it in the right places. 

Makes me wonder what rock they found Scharf under. 

Tags:  In the NewsSystemic Bias