By Sasha Banks
This week, Wells Fargo CEO Charlie Scharf, named “a very limited pool of Black talent” as the cause for the company’s absence of diversity. Without the proper context, the remark stifles actionable progress because it does not do the generative work of simply asking, “why?”
While data does reflect Scharf’s statement, an active inquiry into the problem would also reflect several reasons for this–many, directly linked to systemic racism. In any professional journey, connectivity to information, access, and opportunity is crucial. In many parts of the Black professional journey, it is common to have a combination of only one or two of these key components, not all three.
For decades, access to information and opportunity have often been privatized or institutionalized as a means to limit the work force participation of Black people, and many of those limitations still manifest themselves in the challenges opposing Black professionals. A modern and engaged approach for Black millennials and Gen Z’ers newly graduating and assessing their professional prospects will be one that seeks to bring information, access, and opportunities to them, shifting a dynamic that has long expected them to come to the information, access, and opportunities. Mentor Spaces enacts such a dynamic shift, with a platform that situates Black and Latinx students and early professionals among a range of mentor groups that provide them with the means to access information that matters to them, a curated network, and advanced notice of job opportunities.
Companies seeking to create more robust representation in their professional communities have much work to do, in order to understand the actions (current and historical) that create the cycle that contributes to “limited pools of Black talent”, and disrupt that cycle with innovative, culturally engaged, and relevant practices.