Marci Rubin: A Homegrown Diversity Leader
In so many ways, Marci Rubin, deputy general counsel of Wells Fargo, is the inevitable product of a Berkeley upbringing. Reared in that liberal bastion not far from San Francisco, Rubin fondly remembers a home rife with political activism and folk music. As a young woman, her greatest regret was having been born too late to join the Freedom Riders in their quest to end racial discrimination in the South.
Rubin received a bachelor of arts degree in political theory from the University of California at Berkeley, and her juris doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law. After graduating, instead of lending her considerable abilities to a nonprofit or civil rights law firm, Rubin unexpectedly went onboard at Wells Fargo as a banking lawyer. After 27 years, she is still there, and quite happily so.
“At Wells Fargo, I have never had to hide my politics or beliefs. They’re a part of who I am,” says Rubin. “I was hired by then general counsel Guy Rounsaville, Jr., a diversity trailblazer. He was ahead of his time in understanding the strength of diversity. He knew that for me to be most effective, I needed to be myself.”
Wells Fargo’s current general counsel is Jim Strother, and according to Rubin, he also is very supportive of diversity in general, including all of Rubin’s efforts in this area.
Early on, Rubin reconciled her more liberal thinking with what many of her contemporaries might consider an “establishment occupation.” Her internal compass tells her that there is nothing inherently wrong about corporations. The people working in a company set its values and character. She views corporations as a place for individuals to effect change by bringing in diverse but principled values and sticking with them.
As manager of Wells Fargo law department’s Commercial Credit Section, Rubin has taken an active part in shaping the corporation’s mores and culture. She is adamant in her belief that a company’s success hinges on its employees bringing their values and differences to the table.
“It’s not always apparent that varied social values and world perspectives lead to better decision-making,” explains Rubin. “It’s hard to view a successful new product or litigation matter and prove that diversity led to that success. But over time, that becomes clear. Diversity is about getting the best employees, making the best decisions, and better reflecting our customers.”
At Wells Fargo, Rubin continues to foster diversity. Not only is Rubin afforded a forum from which to speak on the subject, but she is also in a position to recruit people and assure them that they will be valued for who they are. She strives to provide opportunities for diverse attorneys internally at Wells Fargo and in outside counsel as well.
Along with an inherent sense of optimism, it has been Wells Fargo’s commitment to diversity and community betterment that has enabled Rubin to find professional fulfillment in the corporate world.
“Before there were words like ‘diversity,’ I was taught the importance of fairness, equal opportunity, and social justice. I’m sure my mother was talking to me in the womb,” says Rubin. “It’s always been a part of who I am.”
After years in the legal profession, Rubin happily attributes her sensitivity to inclusiveness to the lessons in integrity that she learned at her mother’s kitchen table as a girl in Berkeley.
Patrick Folliard is a freelance writer based in Silver Spring, Md.
From the November/December 2005 issue of Diversity & The Bar®