First and foremost, congratulations to Joanna Clark of Wells Fargo for joining the prestigious gay and lesbian Center Board! The Center is a shortcut for the San Diego LGBT Community Center, an organization started in 1971 in a closet (literally) when Jess Jessop opened a help line to assist the LGBT community. The “Center” was officially incorporated as a 501c3 in 1973, the year when the American Psychiatric Association declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder. Today, the Center is the nation’s second oldest (LA being the first) and third largest LGBT Community Center. The Center has made a huge difference in the lives of tens of thousands of people. Its 800 volunteers, its staff (40 full-time employees) and its 20 board members provide more than 50,000 service hours each year to a very diverse community.
Joanna embodies diversity four-fold
The daughter of a Mexican mother, she is a proud woman, a proud Latina, a proud self-identified lesbian, and the proud second mother of her partner’s daughter. To top it all, she is a very successful professional. After a 15-year career at AT&T in various roles within its Talent Acquisition organization, she joined Wells Fargo in 2011 where she is currently VP, Recruiting Leader for Community Bank’s Western Mountain Region and Shared Services.
Attending a Diverse Leaders Program
Some companies only pay lip service to diversity. It’s clearly not the case of Wells Fargo who nominated Joanna to attend the Diverse Leaders Program very shortly after she joined. At the time, she wrote a beautiful post on my blog on the reasons why she was selected: “I was not selected as a woman who has been climbing the proverbial ladder in a heavily female recruiting profession led predominantly by men, nor because my mother, who was born in Mexico, immigrated here as a child in search for the American Dream for her family. I was selected for neither of these reasons although they would both be true. I was selected instead as a self-identified lesbian and a high potential leader to be given additional training to improve my skills as a manager and leader for the betterment of myself, my team members, my customers and our local communities. I admit, upon learning about my selection, I could not imagine what my ‘gayness’ could possibly have to do with my leadership skills, but I intended to find out.”
From diversity to inclusion
Joanna found out that the purpose of companies with serious diversity programs is to not to simply be diverse or add diversity as a legal or marketing check box. It’s more specifically to foster a feeling of real inclusiveness in the hearts and minds of the “diverse” people whom you hire. Joanna’s experience in this Diverse Leaders Program held in a room full of accomplished bankers, activists, community leaders was a real eye opener for her. “We had openly talked about how we all felt driven to succeed so no one could say that if we failed it was because of our ‘gayness’… Yet in preparing my last word was when I finally found the answer to my question, ‘what does my gayness have to do with my leadership style?’ The answer was ultimately ‘nothing’… My ‘gayness’ was not the point when dealing with who I am as a leader, manager or team member at Wells Fargo. Instead, what I found was that this program was something entirely different. Instead it was about inclusion, realinclusion.”
Joanna admits that until then she thought that the word “inclusion” was part of the corporate jargon. “I had never really never understood it,” she says. “I have always understood why having a mix of different people in a workforce would be good to mirror the communities we worked in but to be truly included, I mean every part of me being included by a company, for the first time, was something I did not expect nor could I anticipate the impact.”
Joanna, what advice would you give to recruiters?
“As recruiters we are the foundation builders of diversity for our companies. We have the ability to impact diversity by building relationships and looking for the best talent with the knowledge that diversity of thought and background builds the strongest team.”