When You Say There's a Limited Pool of Black Talent, Here's What You're Revealing About Yourself
Hint: it's not good.
A few weeks ago, Charlie Scharf joined a list of executives who have revealed made it clear to their companies — and the public — that they have more work to do on their diversity and inclusion journey. The Wells Fargo CEO shared his views on the lack of representation at the bank, citing that there was "a very limited pool of Black talent to recruit from." Scharf later issued an apology after swift media backlash, stating that it was "an insensitive comment reflecting my own unconscious bias."
Scharf is not the only executive to believe this to be true. "There just aren’t enough Black candidates." "It’s not our organization’s issue, it’s clearly a pipeline issue." "Look, I’m all for diverse talent, as long as they are good." The underlying assumption being that we lower the bar for diverse talent, because they aren’t enough talented Black and Brown people in the marketplace.
When you say there’s a limited pool of Black talent, here’s what you are revealing about yourself as a leader: You don’t really know many Black leaders. In fact, maybe you don’t know any Black leaders at all.
How do you show leaders and organizations that Black and Brown talent is everywhere? Start with making these three key strategic investments:
Invest in key partnerships
The pipeline of Black and Brown talent exists. Start investing in key partnerships. Here’s a brief list to get you started. There are too many fantastic partnerships available in the marketplace to capture them all here:
The Executive Leadership Council's primary focus is to nurture and amplify Black excellence and leadership in business. ELC opens channels of opportunity for Black executives to continue to make impact in business and in the community.
INROADS focuses on selection, education, training and performance. Since 1970, INROADS has helped businesses gain greater access to diverse talent, placing many students at internships at many organizations across the country.
The Jackie Robinson Foundation has provided generous, multi-year scholarships and support to JRF scholars attending universities across the country since 1973. To date, there are over 1500 JRF alumni who are leaders across various sectors and industries.
Grace Hopper was created in 1994 to honor the legacy of Admiral Grace Murray Hopper. The AnitaB.org flagship event the Grace Hopper Celebration is the largest gathering of women technologists from around the world who come to network, learn and celebrate one another.
Management Leadership for Tomorrow was founded in 2002 to equip African American, Latinx and Native American men and women to realize their full potential. MLT has been expanding talent pipelines at more than 100 businesses, universities and social-sector organizations, with over 8,000 and growing MLT leaders propelling change in our nation.
National Association of Black Accountants, Inc. has been focused on closing the opportunity gap for Black accounting and finance professionals. It has provided leadership and technical training, networking and career opportunities since 1969.
National Society of Black Engineers was founded in 1975 to support the aspirations of students and technical professionals in technology and engineering. NSBE has over 500 chapters and nearly 16,000 active members in the U.S. and abroad.
National Black MBA Association was founded in 1970 to support Black leadership in corporate America. It remains committed to serving and supporting Black professionals in every step of their careers.
Odyssey Media was founded by Linda Spradley Dunn in 1999 with the mission to foster a community of influential multicultural women to help them succeed and excel, hosting a variety of conferences, workshops and leadership retreats.
2. Invest in diversity sourcers
Building your organization’s employer brand in Black and Brown communities doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a war for talent, and you must build relationships with candidates. Invest in hiring a team of diversity sourcers who report into recruiting and have a dotted line back into your chief diversity officer.
Diversity sourcers will identify the right key partnerships and build these ongoing relationships. They will build a strong network of connections at Historically Black Colleges and Universities. They will help recruiters and managers create job descriptions and interview questions that are non-biased, consistent and help create an inclusive candidate experience. They will be active members of your business resource groups and host events to meet new candidates. They will build a strong pipeline of BIPOC talent for your organization.
Finally, diversity sourcers can help analyze your recruiting data to see where the gaps and inconsistencies are in attracting, interviewing and hiring Black and Brown talent. Twitter’s head of talent acquisition offers the following questions to consider and data to collect to increase representation in your organization:
- How many applicants do you have? How are you attracting candidates at the top of the funnel?
- How many of the applicants do you screen as a recruiting team?
- How many candidates does the hiring manager review?
- How many interviews have taken place?
- How many candidates have received an offer?
- What are your conversion rates? How many candidates accept the offer and join?
3. Invest time in being a talent scout
Finally, we all need to be talent scouts. It’s not recruiting’s job to find us talent. We need to constantly be on the lookout for talent. As your organization invests in key partnerships and builds a team of diversity sourcers, ensure that you show up and make the investment as well. Attend virtual conferences and workshops your organization sponsors. Volunteer to speak about your career journey and share how you have grown at your organization. Raise your hand to be on the interview panel, be an inclusion champion and challenge bias as you see it come up.
Connect with candidates you meet on LinkedIn and stay in touch. Build and expand your network of Black and Brown talent by checking in with individuals you have met, catching up over a virtual coffee connect and keeping them top of mind for roles that might open up later this year or next year. Your personal investment as a talent scout is critical to see the change in representation not just in your own organization, but also on your own teams.