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Racism of the ‘Hard-to-Find’ Qualified Black Candidate Trope

Updated: Nov 7

#employment #whiteprivilege

The “hard-to-find” qualified Black candidate trope is a flavor of systemic racism that limits an organization’s incoming workforce diversity. It is understandably challenging to attract diverse talent without an existing heterogeneous staff.

When organizations cannot provide examples of employees of color contributing, flourishing, and leading, it becomes difficult to attract and retain diverse talent. Source

The importance of hiring and promotion in the workforce makes the problematic trope of the “hard-to-find” qualified Black candidate more than just a stereotypical cliché: its damaging effects are an enduring racist cog in the wheel of progress. Source

Wells Fargo’s CEO Charles Scharf’s statement that the bank had trouble reaching its diversity goals because there was simply not enough qualified Black talent is a prime example of this trope. This trope is perpetuated by organizational racism in hiring and promotions. Source

This is what racism looks like. By using the language of “sensitivity,” apologies reduce the racial bias and its harmful effects to a matter of hurt feelings. However, Scharf’s words are more than indelicate; they harm worker confidence and sense of belonging. Source

His words don’t just reflect a largely accepted way of thinking, they reflect the harm potentially inflicted throughout an entire career—in hiring, promotions, and organizational culture. Source

Last spring during a Zoom meeting with staff, Wells Fargo’s CEO Charles Scharf said that the bank had trouble reaching its diversity goals because there was simply not enough qualified Black talent, reiterating in a company-wide memo: “While it might sound like an excuse, the unfortunate reality is that there is a very limited pool of black talent to recruit from.”

Reuters reported that “Black senior executives across corporate America said they are frustrated by claims of a talent shortage, and called the refrain a major reason that companies have struggled to add enough racial and ethnic diversity to leadership ranks, despite stated intentions to do so.” By September, Scharf had apologized, calling his comment “insensitive,” and said that it reflected his “own unconscious bias.”

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