Driving a Global Diversity Culture at Wells Fargo

Since starting in her new role at the beginning of the year, Jimmie Paschall has brought a global mindset along with a nonprofit perspective — traits she said she acquired during her time in HR with Marriott International.

Paschall spoke with Diversity Executive about her experience, the nature of the diversity officer role and more.

What led you to this role at Wells Fargo?
I started my career with Marriott as a college student in an hourly position and I ended up working for the company the first time around for 17 years, primarily in human resources roles and several business lines that were not lodging business lines. [Then] I had an opportunity to go serve [as] the HR officer for a start-up telecommunications company called XO Communications.

I went from a big, large, global company like Marriott to a small start-up where the decisions that you made on a daily basis actually made a difference in terms of whether or not your organization was successful. It built a whole different set of skills for me.

I [then] ended up going inside of a large national nonprofit organization called Volunteers of America. I went in as their EVP of external affairs, leading fundraising, volunteer initiatives, internal and external communications, public policy — those types of things.

I went back to Marriott in 2008 and it was really at a very pivotal time for that organization because it was catalyzing its growth outside of the U.S., with most of its hotel growth happening in other parts of the world — India, China, Africa and the Middle East.

It was really focused on building cross-cultural competence, seeing that as a leadership competency that would be central for success both in the U.S. and in the global marketplace — really linking the strategy to our customers in the inbound traffic from other parts of the world and service expectations that that created on our U.S. properties.

So I think it was from the work that we were doing there that I was identified during the search for the enterprise diversity and inclusion role here at Wells Fargo.

What is the biggest misconception about diversity and inclusion?
Historically, the work of diversity and inclusion has been seen as the work of a few people. So it has been seen as a set of business objectives and a set of business results that a small group of leaders were charged with — whether that was supplier diversity, whether that was workforce diversity. But I think many people look at that as the diversity department’s role versus the organization’s accountability.

Diversity and inclusion has to be a shared vision. There has to be a shared accountability and there has to be shared ownership for it, which means it is an integrated accountability in each of the functional areas.

I think part of my role here is to really build on the success that we’ve had to date and partner even more with the functional leaders to integrate this accountability into the business; to see that there’s shared ownership so we experience shared success.

I think that’s No. 1: A small group of people can advance concepts and ideas; they can help to articulate a strategy. But the real power of impact and success comes when your entire organizational system owns it and is mobilized around it as a goal.

Do you think that’s something you’ll be able to instill at Wells Fargo?
I think it’s a natural evolution of the efforts here — because there are a lot of functional strategies in this area. And so I think the opportunity is to really connect them and maybe integrate them a bit more, and to look at what our goals and objectives are across the enterprise, versus looking at them functionally.

What do you enjoy most of the role?
I think this role is really beginning to attract leaders from a lot of different backgrounds. If you think about the first diversity executives in corporate America — 10 to 15 years ago — many of those individuals came out of human resources and had been responsible for their organization’s EEO and affirmative action compliance-oriented work.

And I think some people still see diversity and inclusion in that space — sort of as the evolution of that.

Diversity and inclusion [nowadays] is a much broader, bigger, empowering sort of strategy for an organization. It is not exclusive; it is inclusive, and it covers a broader range of things than EEO and affirmative action. It gets into layers that are not necessarily visible when you see someone. Culture, ethnicity, belief systems, sexual orientation, gender identity — it’s a very exciting, interesting and complex space to help a company navigate.