In the S&P 500, women of color are few and far between in CEO and CFO roles, but momentum is there for chief legal officers. 

Watch out corporate America. By 2060, Black, Asian, and Hispanic women are projected to make up the majority of all women in the country – and that means they’re likely to dominate the workforce as well. Despite their growing numbers, and their high levels of ambition, women of color are significantly underrepresented in corporate leadership positions, and often invisible in the C-suites of large public companies. 

Much has been written about the “broken rung” for women of color (and for women generally), and there’s a significant amount of high-quality research on the subject – including this recent report by McKinsey and LeanIn.Org, which features an intersectional look at their experiences at work. With that in mind, this week our researchers analyzed the number of women of color in CEO, CFO, and chief legal/GC roles at S&P 500 companies. Here’s what we found:

Only one percent of S&P 500 CEOs are women of color. 

  • Specifically, out of 507 CEOs (some companies have co-CEOs), only three are Asian women – AMD’s Lisa Su, Arista Networks’ Jayshree Ullal, and Vertex Pharmaceutical’s Reshma Kewalramani. For more of our data on Asian Americans in executive positions, see here).   
  • And only one Black woman sits at the helm of an S&P 500 company – Walgreens Boots Alliance’s Rosalind “Roz” Brewer. An outspoken proponent of corporate diversity and human capital, Roz credits her rise to the top on being true to herself, and a diverse set of experiences, including some lateral and backwards steps on the career ladder which gave her the skills she needed to climb higher.  

And only two percent of CFOs are women of color. 

  • Only ten companies have women of color in the CFO position – Charles River Labs, Enphase, Estee Lauder, WW Grainger, Hormel Foods, WEC Energy Group, Lowes Corp., Meta (Facebook), Waste Management, and Quanta Services. 
  • Of these women, five are Asian American, three are Black, and two are Hispanic. 
  • One of these women, Estee Lauder’s Tracey Travis, says she was often one of the only women of color in traditionally male-dominated fields, a fact that pushed her to constantly prove her worth through drive and determination. She also credits her diverse career experience with helping her succeed, including time at GM, PepsiCo, Ralph Lauren, and Victoria’s Secret parent company L Brands.  

While representation in CEO and CFO roles is low, women of color are making their mark in chief legal roles. 

  • Our data shows 47, or 9.7 percent of CLO positions are held by Black, Asian or Hispanic women.
  • Of this group, 27 CLOs, or slightly more than five percent, are Black women.
  • Why the higher levels of representation in law? One opinion is that 20th century breakthroughs by Black and African American attorneys and legal scholars have led to a “virtuous cycle,” which has resulted in greater opportunities for today’s attorneys. 
  • Kraft Heinz’ Rashida La Lande also cites law schools’ strong commitment to diversity as a contributing factor.  

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