For the first time in history, two Black women CEOs are featured on the Fortune 500 list.
This year, Fortune reports that women-run Fortune 500 companies have hit an all-time record of 41 CEOs, with women like Roz Brewer of No. 16 Walgreens Boots Alliance and Thasunda Brown Duckett of No. 79 TIAA making strides for Black businesswomen.
Brewer, who’s a former Starbucks executive, was named the new CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance back in March, briefly making her the only Black woman to run a Fortune 500 company this year until she was joined by Duckett, former JPMorgan Chase exec and now the new CEO of TIAA.
According to Fortune, only one other Black woman, Ursula Burns of Xerox, has run a Fortune 500 business on a permanent basis with the exception of Mary Winston, who served as Bed Bath & Beyond’s interim chief for several months back in 2019.
Ever since then, Black women CEOs have been missing from the Fortune 500 list but it looks as though that’s beginning to change. Now, these major corporations are having to answer to the public who demanded they diversify their senior teams with more Black and people of color following last summer’s social reckoning.
“We’re seeing more intentionality. We’re seeing a focus on women of color,” Lorraine Hariton, CEO of gender equality organization Catalyst, said of this year’s trends to Fortune. “And we’re seeing a recognition that diversity and women in leadership are even more important.”
While she notes these new appointments mark a sense of progress in the business world, she also stressed the fact that there’s still a large gap in women leadership when you account for the very small number of women Fortune 500 CEOs.
“We need to tell the optimistic—but not exuberant— story around what’s happening for women,” Hariton adds.
Diversity for women of color running Fortune 500 businesses has improved since last year, but we still have a long way to go before we can declare true equality for Black businesswomen.