Two Black female CEOs feature on the Fortune 500 list for the first time ever.
Rosalind “Roz” Brewer, the CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance, and Thasunda Brown Duckett, the CEO of TIAA have been included on the 67th edition of the list.
Brown Duckett was appointed CEO of financial services company TIAA in February. She took over from Roger W. Ferguson Jr., another Black CEO, who retired from the post. TIAA ranked 79th on the list with more than $41 billion in revenues.
Prior to joining the company Brown Duckett was CEO of Chase Consumer Banking, the consumer and commercial banking business of JPMorgan Chase & Co. TIAA is the only Fortune 500 company to have two consecutive black CEOs.
Brewer was appointed CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance in March. The pharmaceutical retailer ranked 16th on the list after earning more than $139 billion in revenues during its last fiscal year. Brewer joined the company from Starbucks where she was Chief Operating Officer. She played a key role in helping Starbucks expand its global reach.
“It does not escape me that I am standing on the shoulders of giants, including the cooks and janitors and others who look like me and were first to enter corporate America,” Brown Duckett said in an interview with ABC. “They created the space for me to have this opportunity. My hope is that corporate America realizes that talent is created equally but opportunity is not, and we all acknowledge that there’s more work to be done.”
Brown Duckett’s comments once again shine a light on the lack of Black executives in C-suite and other senior roles in corporate America. According to a 2019 study by workplace think tank Coqual (formerly known as the Center for Talent Innovation) Black people account for only 3.2% of the senior leadership roles at large companies in the U.S.
“It’s encouraging to see Brewer and Brown Duckett make the Fortune 500 list for several reasons,” said Dr. Roshawnna Novellus, founder and CEO of EnrichHER, a digital lending platform that connects diverse founders to capital. “One, it’s an initial sign that change is coming to the executive ranks of corporate America. Two, it sends a strong message to the millions of women of color aspiring to be in these positions that they too belong in the C-suite. Still, reaching the CEO level is only half the battle. Sustainable impact comes from empowering diverse talent and implementing policies and procedures that are inclusive and reflect the ever-changing world we live in.”
“As a former wall street analyst – as a black woman, in the male-dominated world of finance, it feels incredible to see these women making history,” adds Marguerite Pressley Davis, founder of Finance Savvy CEO. “I know what it feels like to be the only woman, the only person of color in a room. I know how hard it is to get a seat in that room, so I’m ecstatic to see these women making history and creating the tables for future generations to take their seats.”
And only 1% of Fortune 500 CEO positions are filled by African Americans despite forming 13.4 % of the population.
Other figures cited by Fortune show that there have only been 19 Black CEOs in the list’s 67 year history. Before Brown Duckett and Brewer’s appointments, the only woman among them was Ursula Burns. She ran Xerox from 2009 to 2016.
The annual list features the largest 500 American companies by total revenue. This year’s list revealed that a record 41 women are Fortune 500 CEOs. However women still only make up 8.2% of CEOs on the list according to CBS News.
“We continue to see steady progress in the Fortune 500, with a handful of women and two [new] women of color being elevated into CEO roles,” said Lorraine Hariton, CEO of gender equality firm Catalyst speaking to CNBC. However, she added that even with this progress, “there’s more work to do.”