There is undeniable evidence that African-Americans have made impressive progress in Corporate America. Kenneth Chenault is chairman and CEO of American Express.
Richard Parsons is chairman and CEO of AOL Time Warner. E. Stanley O’Neal holds a similar… There is undeniable evidence that African-Americans have made impressive progress in Corporate America. Kenneth Chenault is chairman and CEO of American Express.
Richard Parsons is chairman and CEO of AOL Time Warner. E. Stanley O’Neal holds a similar title at Merrill Lynch & Co. Aylwin Lewis is president and CEO of Kmart. Ann M. Fudge holds the same titles at Young & Rubicam Brands.
A report just released by the Executive Leadership Council in Washington, D.C. offers more encouraging news. According to its findings, African-Americans now hold 8.1 percent of the board seats on Fortune 500 companies.
What that means on an individual level is that some African-Americans are finally being allowed to advance to a level commensurate with their talent. Collectively, it means that young Black kids can now model their lives and careers after Black corporate superstars rather than professional athletes and entertainers.
As much progress as we’ve made in this area, there is still plenty of room for growth.
While it is impressive that Blacks hold 8.1 percent of the board seats on Fortune 500 companies, that’s about double the African-American representation in the executive suite. In other words, it’s twice as easy to be an outsider elected to set policy for a Fortune 500 firm than it is for a Black to rise to the top from within the company.
A 1995 report by the federal Glass Ceiling Commission observed, "At the highest levels of business, there is indeed a barrier only rarely penetrated by women or persons of color. Consider: 97% of the senior managers of Fortune 1000 industrial and Fortune 500 companies are white; 95 to 97% are male. In Fortune 2000 industrial and service companies, 5 % of senior managers are women – and of that 5 percent, virtually all are white."
The Glass Ceiling report observes, "…The world at the top of the corporate hierarchy does not yet look anything like America. Two-thirds of our population, and 57 percent of the working population, is female, or minorities, or both." The commission projects that this year, people of color and women will make up 62 percent of the workforce.
U.S. Census Bureau projections show that over the next 50 years, the U.S. population will grow by 50 percent, with 90 percent of that growth occurring among people of color while the White population increases by only 7.4 percent. Given these dramatic changes in the population and the workforce, White males can’t continue to enjoy the virtual monopoly they’ve held on the top jobs in Corporate America. The Executive Leadership Council represents
African-Americans at the senior level in corporations, two or three rungs below the CEO. What is striking about its inaugural report on Black board directorships is that while 67 percent of the Fortune 500 companies have at least one Black on their board, a third – 33 percent – have no African-American directors.
There are 5,572 total board seats for Fortune 500 companies. Of those, 449 or 8.1 per cent are held by African-Americans. Black men hold more than three times as many seats than African-American women. Black men hold 344 of the total board seats, or 6.2 percent, and Black women hold only 105, or 1.9 percent.
Interestingly, there was a major difference between the top 100 members of the Fortune 500 and the bottom 100. Of the top 100 companies on the Fortune 500 list, Blacks held 10.9 percent of the seats. For the 100 at the bottom of the list, Blacks were only 0.6 percent of their directors. What was surprising was the number of firms that have no Black directors yet expect African-Americans to continue supporting their products. They include: Safeway, Inc., Intel Corp., Kmart Holding Corp., Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co., Lehman Brothers Holdings, Inc., Rite Aid Corp., Qwest Communications International, Humana, Inc., Whirlpoo