Fortune Magazine recently released its annual Fortune 500 list, and the outlet was quick to brag that it had a “record number” of Black CEOs on its coveted list.
And they even invoked George Floyd’s name to brag about the accomplishment.
“In the wake of racial protests following the murder of George Floyd, companies pledged to increase diversity within their executive ranks and accelerate change internally,” reports the outlet. “This year, six Black chief executives sit atop Fortune 500 companies, making up just over 1% of businesses on the 2022 ranking. That’s a noteworthy increase from last year when only five Black CEOs ran Fortune 500 companies.”
The Fortune 500 list shows that there’s a world of difference between equality and equity. In other words, while everyone has the same opportunities (at least in theory), they’re not always going to be granted the same results, even if all things are assumed to be otherwise equal (and we all know they’re not).
Six Black CEOs on the list seems like a big accomplishment, on the surface, but it hits a little different when one realizes that white men still run the vast majority of these prestigious companies by orders of magnitude.
And things don’t fare much better when the numbers are broken down by other factors, either. According to Quartz, just 8.8 percent of all companies on the list are run by women, though the outlet was also quick to brag that women executives were also in “record numbers.”
And while LatinX executives of Fortune 500 companies were in greater numbers than their Black counterparts, they’re certainly not thriving in Corporate America either. In fact, according to Investopedia, only 20 S&P 500 and Fortune 500 companies feature a LatinX CEO — or, only 4 percent. That said, that’s still a greater number than Black CEOs.
While Fortune applauded “noteworthy” increases, we can say they were also quick to acknowledge that Corporate America lacks equity, especially for Black executives.
“Consider this: If the CEO makeup of the Fortune 500 was reflective of U.S. demographics, there would be more than 65 Black CEOs (13.5%) leading America’s largest public companies, compared to the current state of around 1.2%,” they wrote.
In short, despite claims of diversity and equality — not to mention the rancorous bleating about being “replaced” — white men still dominate corporate America.
For now, however, let’s take our victories where we can get them, and celebrate the six Black CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.
As the CEO of Walgreens Boot Alliance, Roz Brewer is the highest-ranking Black CEO on the Fortune 500 list — and one of only two Black women on the list.
“She’s the epitome of experiences, additional responsibilities, and demonstrated value,” said Michael Hyter, president, and CEO of the Executive Leadership Council (ELC), an organization that works to build a C-suite pipeline for Black executives.
One of the newest entrants on the list, David Rawlinson is the president and CEO of Qurate Retail, Inc. which includes video commerce retailers QVC and HSN, online retailer Zulily, and several other brands.
Robert Reffkin isn’t just the CEO of real estate company Compass — he actually founded the company.
Clyburn is another new entry on the list and was appointed to the role of CEO of IFF (International Flavors and Fragrances) in February of 2022.
As the CEO of Lowe’s, Marvin Ellison also has the rare distinction of being the only Black executive to have CEO positions at two different Fortune 500 companies. Prior to his role with Lowe’s, he held the CEO position with J.C. Penney and also worked at companies like The Home Depot and Target, according to his LinkedIn.
Thasunda Brown Duckett
AfroTech has frequently reported on Thasunda Brown Duckett, the CEO of TIAA, in the past. We noted that she was only the second Black woman CEO in 2021 to be named to a Fortune 500 company.