The number of Black executives in corporate boardrooms remains shockingly sparse even with the ongoing push for diversity and inclusion all across American culture — including companies big and small alike. But some of the biggest corporations in the United States are working on a new initiative to change that.
Chauncey Alcorn of CNN has reported that Amazon, Microsoft and Zillow are among the major corporate brands attempting to address the problem by “backing the Black Boardroom Initiative, a new program with a goal of increasing the ratio of Black executives sitting on S&P 500 corporate boards to 1 in 8 by 2028.”
According to Alcorn, “the Black Boardroom Initiative is also working to identify candidates to participate in a six-month training and networking program. The group says it wants to raise the visibility of qualified Black director candidates, starting in the state of Washington, where most of the program’s sponsors are headquartered.”
In a statement, The Black Boardroom’s co-leader Stewart Landefeld said, “This initiative will help to address this equity imbalance by identifying leading Black executives who are board-ready, preparing them for critical issues that boards are facing today, and establishing a pipeline between program participants and public companies.”
While there has been a consistent call for Black representation in Corporate America over the last year, Alcorn writes that many of those advancements still aren’t going to Black Americans. Instead, they are being filled by women and Latinx individuals.
“One-hundred forty-five S&P 500 companies have appointed at least one Black director to their board since last June, according to Latino Corporate Directors Association data recently cited by Bloomberg,” Alcorn reported. “But the number of Latino corporate board members has quadrupled since last year, according to Bloomberg. Additionally, women now occupy almost one-third of all S&P 500 board seats for the first time ever.”
In an interview with CNN, Cate Goethals, founder of the Better Boards Initiative, a nonprofit working to increase board diversity, said, “I think that’s where the consciousness went first, to increase the number of women on boards. Half the population is female. Unfortunately, the focus has been on appointing women and only in a recent couple of years has there been [a focus] on appointing people of color in general.”
Mike Hyter, president and CEO of the Executive Leadership Council, agreed, telling Alcorn that “there’s also a stigma about the talent and abilities of Black executives that need to be addressed.”
“The perception of limited ability as compared to others is still prominent in spite of the incremental gains, which is why we need to remain vigilant,” Hyter said.