Black executives make up a tiny fraction of C-suite in America’s biggest companies – The Washington Post – DC Initiative on Racial Equity
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Days had passed since George Floyd’s murder, and Lee Jourdan, then Chevron’s chief diversity and inclusion officer and one of the highest-ranking Black executives at the oil giant, was struggling for the right words. “I’m scared,” he wrote at last in a company blog post. What he needed from his Chevron colleagues was “a collective recognition that racism exists” — including at work, “hidden behind titles and badges and smiles.”

Over the next year, Jourdan said he saw White senior executives striving like never before to understand what it’s like to be Black at Chevron. But he was disappointed with the results of Chevron’s efforts to increase Black representation at the company.

“It became a battle between how far do we want to lean into this and not wanting to turn folks off,” Jourdan, who retired from Chevron in May, said in an interview.

Eighteen months after the country’s leading businesses pledged to address racial inequality within their ranks, a Washington Post review of the 50 most valuable public companies reveals that Black employees represent a strikingly small fraction of top executives — and that the people tapped to boost inclusion often struggle to do so.

According to the analysis, only 8 percent of “C-suite” executives — the highest corporate leaders, often those reporting to the CEO — are Black.

[George Floyd’s America: Examining systemic racism and racial injustice in the post-civil rights era]

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, according to information they supplied to The Post.

The percentage of Black executives in the C-suite equals or surpasses America’s Black population of 12 percent at 10 companies. Within that group, Black executives made up at least 20 percent of the C-suite at five companies — Merck, UPS, AT&T, UnitedHealth Group and Home Depot.

Fourteen companies declined to share the racial composition of their top executives.

The review also shows that the diversity chiefs whom companies have increasingly relied on to foster inclusive workplaces and expand career opportunities for underrepresented groups are often not adequately empowered.

Only 13 companies include their diversity chiefs in top leadership, the review showed. Without that seat at the table, some current and former chief diversity officers say they have limited influence and authority to push through their initiatives.

Diversity chiefs face pressure to create opportunities for all underrepresented groups, including women and LGBTQ employees. But many say special attention must be paid to Black employees, who typically trail other racial demographics in senior leadership ranks. Since Floyd’s death, more corporations are beginning to acknowledge the role racial bias has played in how Black employees are treated and evaluated, hampering their chances of promotion. However, some diversity chiefs and consultants question how corporate America will respond to an increasing public backlash.

“At the end of the day, I measure success by what’s happening with Black representation in these organizations,” said Rosalind Hudnell, Intel’s longtime chief diversity officer who retired in 2018. “If you have a chief diversity officer and their CEO has said ‘we care about Black lives’ and there are no Black lives in the C-suite, success has not been achieved.”

The Business Roundtable, which represents the CEOs of more than 200 companies, declined to respond on the record to The Post’s findings and instead pointed to its members’ efforts to advance racial equity since Floyd’s death, including “creating opportunities for employees of color to take on managerial positions.”

“Real progress has been made, and Business Roundtable CEOs know that much more is needed to close the racial wealth gap and address other inequities faced by communities of color,” the BRT wrote in November in the one-year update to its racial equity initiative.

[The Forgotten Ferguson: Four years after Michael Brown was shot by police, the neighborhood where he was killed still feels left behind]

Since Floyd was killed by police in May 2020, the 50 biggest companies have pledged nearly $50 billion toward racial justice causes, according to a previous Post analysis. Virtually all have reported to shareholders a renewed commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Mentions of “diversity” and “inclusion” in annual reports filed to the Securities and Exchange Commission jumped sixfold from 2019 to 2020, according to a Post analysis. In 2020, 46 of the 50 companies included at least one diversity-related word in their filing. Just 17 did so in 2019. The word “racism” did not appear.

Chevron added a “Diversity and Inclusion” section to its 2020 SEC report but only in reference to promoting “neurodiversity” and supporting “women reentering the workforce” — not race.

A Chevron spokeswoman said the SEC filing describes measures intended to “further advance” the company’s diversity and inclusion practices.

While 27 of the 50 companies surveyed by The Post report tying a portion of executive compensation to diversity measures — with McDonald’s, Google, Procter & Gamble, PayPal, Apple and Wells Fargo having made the change since Floyd’s murder — few outline the criteria for determining such awards. Wells Fargo, for example, compensates senior leaders for increasing gender, racial and ethnic representation in executive ranks.

[Corporate America’s $50 billion promise]

And while pay equity studies, a tool used to identify racial disparities, are now widespread, more than a dozen companies do not break out minority groups by race, confining their reports to White and minority employees. Company statements on having successfully achieved pay equity often mask gaps between how different minority groups are faring.

“Companies say they want to tackle systemic racism, but people are so uncomfortable talking about race,” said Mary-Frances Winters, whose consulting firm works with corporations on diversity, equity and inclusion. “Most of our clients do not want to talk about ‘white supremacy’ culture. They are most comfortable using terms like ‘belonging’ and ‘inclusion’ because they are nice terms.”

How the 50 most valuable companies stack up on these diversity measures

Company Chief Diversity Officer demographics Who CDO reports to Is CDO in C-suite? Is exec. pay tied to diversity? Pct. of C-suite who is Black

AT&T

CDO is a Black man

Black man

HR

AbbVie

CDO is a Black woman

Black woman

Abbott

CDO is a Black man

Black man

HR

Adobe

CDO is a Black man

Black man

HR

Alphabet (Google)

CDO is a Black woman

Black woman

HR

Amazon

CDO is a Black woman

Black woman

HR

Apple

CDO is a Black woman

Black woman

HR

Bank of America

CDO is a Black woman

Black woman

HR

Berkshire Hathaway

Broadcom

Chevron

CDO is a Black woman

Black woman

HR

Cisco

CDO is a Black woman

Black woman

HR

Coca-Cola

CDO is a Black woman

Black woman

HR

Comcast

CDO is a Black/Asian woman

Black/Asian woman

CEO

Costco

CDO is a White man

White man

CEO

Danaher

CDO is a Woman

Woman

HR

Disney

CDO is a Black woman

Black woman

HR

Eli Lilly

CDO is a White woman

White woman

HR

Exxon Mobil

Home Depot

CDO is a Black man

Black man

HR

Honeywell

CDO is a Black woman

Black woman

CEO & HR

Intel

CDO is a Black woman

Black woman

HR

JPMorgan Chase

CDO is a Black man

Black man

COO

Johnson & Johnson

CDO is a Black woman

Black woman

CEO & HR

Mastercard

CDO is a Black man

Black man

CAO

McDonald’s

CDO is a Black man

Black man

HR

Merck

CDO is a Black woman

Black woman

HR

Meta (Facebook)

CDO is a Black woman

Black woman

COO

Microsoft

CDO is a White woman

White woman

HR

Netflix

CDO is a Black woman

Black woman

HR

NextEra Energy

Nike

CDO is a Black woman

Black woman

HR

Nvidia

CDO is a Hispanic woman

Hispanic woman

HR

Oracle

PayPal

CDO is a Black woman

Black woman

HR

PepsiCo

CDO is a White woman

White woman

HR

Pfizer

CDO is a Black man

Black man

HR

Procter & Gamble

CDO is a White woman

White woman

CEO

Qualcomm

CDO is a Black man

Black man

HR

Salesforce

CDO is a Hispanic woman

Hispanic woman

HR

T-Mobile

CDO is a Woman

Woman

HR

Tesla

Texas Instruments

Thermo Fisher Scientific

CDO is a Black woman

Black woman

HR

UPS

CDO is a Black woman

Black woman

CEO

UnitedHealth Group

CDO is a Black woman

Black woman

HR

Verizon

CDO is a Hispanic woman

Hispanic woman

HR

Visa

CDO is a Black woman

Black woman

CEO

Walmart

CDO is a Black man

Black man

HR

Wells Fargo

CDO is a Hispanic man

Hispanic man

CEO

Note: Jump to full methodology.

Sources: Corporate responses to Post inquiries and company reports. The list of the 50 most valuable companies is from S&P Global Market Intelligence, as of April.

Building empathy in the C-suite

As millions took to the streets to protest Floyd’s death, Jourdan sensed momentum behind efforts to address systemic racism within corporate America — including at Chevron. To his surprise, the company tweeted “black lives matter” and proclaimed support for “all those seeking systemic change.” CEO Mike Wirth shared Jourdan’s blog post and urged employees to reflect on their biases.

“Here was an opportunity to really lock in our racial equity plan while everybody was still up in arms about what happened,” Jourdan said he thought at the time.

[CEOs say they are committed to racially inclusive economic growth, but is it just talk?]

But he said he had to tread carefully, mindful that the energy industry was relatively conservative and more White than other sectors. Black people represent 4 percent of oil and gas workers. (ExxonMobil, for instance, is one of the corporate giants that doesn’t have a diversity chief. Instead, a spokesman said diversity is a priority that is spread throughout the company.)

And while some companies rushed to embrace Juneteenth as a paid holiday, Chevron does not grant employees the day off to mark Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, a federal holiday since 1983.

Every year, Black employees looked to him to get it done, Jourdan said. And every year, he was charged with explaining why the answer would be no. That did not change with Floyd’s death.

“I had to put the corporate hat on and I would say, ‘Chevron does provide a floating holiday so if it’s important to you, you can take it off,’ ” Jourdan said. “I would like to have seen Chevron give MLK Day as a holiday. It was never comfortable saying no to them, but I had to choose my battles.”

Chevron said it encourages employees to use their “personal choice” day for any holiday the company does not recognize.

[Facebook’s race-blind practices around hate speech came at the expense of Black users, new documents show]

Jourdan instead focused on changes he felt were more immediately deliverable — su


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