Black Employees Only Make Up 8% Corporate Executive Leadership In The U.S.

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A new report from The Washington Post detailed the efforts and failures of the nation's top corporations to diversify their executive leadership.

In the wake of George Floyd's murder last year and other high-profile cases of racial disparity in the United States, multiple companies, including the country's leading businesses, pledged to address racial inequality in their own workplaces. Yet, a review from the Post paints a different story.

Reporters reviewed the 50 most valuable companies in the nation and found that Black employees only represented 8% of C-suite executives. "C-Suite" means the highest corporate leaders, often those reporting to the CEO. This includes chief financial officers (CFO), chief operating officers (COO), and so on.

"At least eight companies — Walmart, Nvidia, Cisco, Pfizer, T-Mobile, Costco, Honeywell, and Qualcomm — list no Black executives among their leadership team as of December [2021], according to information they supplied," the newspaper says. Reporters didn't reveal the 14 companies that declined to share the racial makeup of their top executives.

The Post says Black executives make up at least 20% of the C-Suite at five companies: Merck, UPS, AT&T, UnitedHealth Group, and Home Depot.

Forbes pointed out that companies have used diversity and inclusion officers to not only recruit employees from underrepresented communities. However, some former diversity officials say they lacked the resources or power to actually make progress, usually excluded from executive leadership.

Lee Jourdan, the ex-diversity and inclusion office at oil giant Chevron, says the White senior executives strived hard "like never before to understand what it’s like to be Black" in its workplace. Ultimately, he revealed to the Post that he was "disappointed" with efforts to bolster Black representation at Chevron.

“It became a battle between how far do we want to lean into this and not wanting to turn folks off," Jourdan told reporters.

Forbes did suggest some methods companies have used to improve diversity in top leadership:

  • Implementing something similar to NFL's "Rooney's Rule," where a pool of candidates for executive positions include underrepresented employees
  • Establishing a system solely for complaints of discrimination, including protocols for escalating and investigating complaints
  • Diversity and inclusion officers have a "seat at the table" when it comes to decisions being made

You can read WSP's full report about this issue here.

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