The fact that African Americans are poorly represented in the highest levels of corporate America is no secret. In fact, Ursula Burns Xerox CEO and Charles Phillips Infor CEO mistress and master respectively of their operations, are two of a small handful of black CEOs.
Unfortunately, those numbers recently took another hit, when Don Thompson, McDonald’s CEO, announced his retirement. This means that only two CEOs in the elite Dow 30 are now African Americans. The diversity picture, in fact, seems to be getting more and more dismal. There are just five African American CEOs at the 500 largest companies in the country, something that was recently revealed by an advocacy group that is pro-diversity.
Unfortunately, according to The Executive Leadership Council’s CEO Ronald Parker, the numbers are going south. The Executive Leadership Council, meanwhile, works very hard to improve diversity in corporate America, and they are very worried about these developments.
Thompson took on the held at McDonald’s a reasonably short time ago and, during his tenure, the numbers haven’t changed. In fact, Thompson was only the sixth African American to reach the position of CEO for a Fortune 500 company. In 2007, the number reached its peak, when there were seven. In fact, entire books have been written on the subject, including one by Richard Zweigenhaft, who is a professor at Guildford College.
It is worrying to see these figures when you consider that African Americans are barely a minority population anymore. In fact, the Census Bureau has calculated that at least 13.2% of the population is of black heritage. This demonstrates that there is a real issue with diversity across the board.
The diversity problems in corporate America have been documented for many years. In fact, it is one of the main criticism of Silicon Valley, which is not just mainly white, but also mainly mail. The same is true for Wall Street, where the demographics are similar: white males.
But racial diversity is lacking in many other places as well. Corporate boards, for instance, are almost exclusively white. This must be changed as soon as possible. There is now a cry for existing executives to incorporate increased diversity in their succession planning strategies, taking a methodical and intentional approach to it.
Leaders are asked to come up with succession plans in which individuals are chosen on their career experience, while at the same time ensuring others are able to gain career experience. By working together, going above and beyond race, people can start to become active on a multinational basis.
Recently, Intel seemed to have got the ball rolling. They announced a $300 million, five year diversity program, with the goal of creating a workforce that has the same diversity as the current tech graduates from various schools. Brian Krzanich, CEO of Intel, has stated that he believes his company is missing out on important opportunities, because the current workforce is not representative of the overall population.
Thompson agreed with this. When he was promoted, he said that it was important that there would be more productivity in the company, at all levels. He felt this would boost the bottom line of the company, while at the same time helping with the menu. The more cultural diversity, the more tastes and ideas can be shared as well.