U.S. Congresswoman Joyce Beatty (OH-03), Chair of the House Financial Services Diversity and Inclusion Subcommittee, wrote a letter to Wells Fargo President and CEO Charles Scharf to express her profound disappointment and disagreement with his remarks regarding the false and misguided perception of a shortage of qualified African Americans as an excuse for his failure to meet Wells Fargo’s workforce diversity goals:
“Due to historic and pervasive discrimination in this country, many young Black applicants do not have the luxury of having a father who can put their son’s resume on the desk of Jaime Dimon in hopes of getting a foot in the door,” Beatty’s letter reads in part. “Any inability of your institution to identify Black talent, does not speak to reality, but the failure of your leadership and senior leaders of your institution in this space.”
She later writes, “As the Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Diversity and Inclusion, I am determined to achieve greater accountability from business leaders on their firm’s diversity and inclusion performance. While business leaders cannot change past performance, they must make every effort to ensure a more diverse and inclusive culture is fully integrated into the boardroom, C-suite and every facet of the enterprise in the future. I look forward to speaking with you in the future on this issue.”
Prior to Scharf’s previously unreported remarks, Beatty spoke with him at a March 10 House Financial Services Committee hearing. During their contentious interaction, Beatty questioned Scharf about his commitment to diversity and inclusion and asked him had he read Wells Fargo’s self-report on the racial and gender makeup of leadership at the financial institution. In response, Scharf admitted that he had not reviewed the report, struggled to respond to several diversity-related questions, but committed that he would do more to expand opportunities, including in the boardroom, C-suite, and leadership, at Wells Fargo. An archived recording of the Beatty-Scharf exchange can be viewed on YouTube.
Beatty’s letter references the recently released House Financial Services Committee’s “Diversity and Inclusion: Holding America’s Large Banks Accountable” report on diversity and inclusion performance at the nation’s largest banks. According to the report, poorly conceived and implemented business practices are a significant impediment to the financial industry’s inability to overcome these systemic failures. Studies have found that the industry has historically failed to engage and recruit students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Further, recruitment efforts in the financial services sector routinely fails to leverage diverse recruiters or require diverse slates of candidates when filling employment vacancies. Finally, overt and unconscious bias impede the ability of senior executives to fully grasp causality and embrace sustainable, long-term solutions to build a more diverse and inclusive workforce.