Wells Fargo CEO should know that diversity can be a money maker


Opinion: There are plenty of qualified Black candidates for any job. Leaders like Wells Fargo CEO Charles Scharf simply need to do their jobs and find them.

Charles W. Scharf. (Photo: Alex Wroblewski / Getty Images News via Getty Images)

Finally, we get some accountability from leadership.

Wells Fargo CEO Charles Scharf has apologized for saying there weren’t enough qualified Black candidates to improve the diversity at his company.

“It’s clear to me,” he wrote in a memo, “that, across the industry, we have not done enough to improve diversity, especially at senior leadership levels.”

The apology isn’t enough, of course. But it’s certainly an important first step.

If he was genuine, a flurry of influential hires and promotions will follow. If the statement was it was just a move to keep African American investors from pulling their money out of his banks, then that will show up, too.

If Scharf is smart, he’ll find ways to make real diversity a real priority. It’s more than just looking different. It’s a money-making skill.

YouTube, Apple learned from diversity

Consider the YouTube app. It didn’t work for 1 in 10 people when it debuted, a ratio that threatened to cut off tens of millions of cellphone users and limit Google’s market share.

The problem was that there weren’t enough left-handed developers in the design process.

Turns out, right-handed people are likely to rotate their phones clockwise when going from vertical to horizontal. Lefties go counterclockwise.

Anytime a phone went southpaw, the app glitched.

Lefty developers represented diversity.

Steve Jobs is another example from the tech world. He once told a commencement crowd at Stanford University that the reason for Apple’s success was his nontraditional career path.

If he had gone straight through college, he would have learned the same things his classmates learned.

But as a dropout who dropped back in, he took a calligraphy class that taught him to appreciate beauty and artistry in an overlooked area. The computer industry standard at the time involved blocky, hugely pixilated text that was ugly and hard to read.

He put his knowledge of fonts into his new machine and became an icon.

It couldn’t have happened if he didn’t see the world differently based on his personal experiences.

Diversity can be lucrative, too

It took a woman to introduce sportswear to half the U.S. population.

Alyssa Milano — yes, the actress — wanted some Dodgers gear, but couldn’t find anything that looked good. Back then, women’s sportswear was usually pink.

The Dodgers don’t wear pink, so Milano showed them “Who’s the Boss” and designed a line of fashionable women’s clothes in actual team colors.

Again, a regular perspective represented something transformative, simply because it was different. And it made money. 

In Hollywood, Marvel’s “Black Panther” did more than $1.3 billion at the box office. At the height of its popularity, it was the highest-grossing superhero movie of all time in the U.S. with earnings in excess of $600 million.

It had an overwhelmingly Black cast, appealing to African Americans who had been clamoring for decades about the need for improved representation. It also drew in people of other races who just wanted to see a good movie that wasn’t the “same ol’ same.”

In the NFL, so many of the top quarterbacks are Black that it’s no longer remarkable.

Kyler Murray. Patrick Mahomes. Lamar Jackson. Cam Newton. Russell Wilson. Deshaun Watson. Dak Prescott.

These players give their teams a competitive advantage that has more to do with the value of open competition than race.

Can’t find qualified people? Look harder

Throughout football history, Black quarterbacks have faced stigmas that limited their opportunities. That meant that unqualified white quarterbacks were getting opportunities that should have gone to others.

And the guess here is that it happens all the time in the world of business.

Competent, smart, motivated, free-thinking people are getting passed up, passed over, overly scrutinized, underpaid, undervalued and overworked every day.

And then guys like Scharf say they aren’t good enough.

The reality is that people in Scharf’s position aren’t good enough at looking.

He deserves credit for walking the statement back.

Accountability is entirely too rare in leadership these days.

Now it’s time to see if he actually meant what he said; there are plenty of other banks that our African American dollars could support.

Reach Moore at gmoore@azcentral.com or 602-444-2236. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @WritingMoore.

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