Are Executive Positions in Corporate America Opening Up For Asian Americans?

More than twenty million people identify as Asian American, but while the term sounds homogeneous, it encompasses a disparate range of individuals – including people from Pakistan, Vietnam, India, Korea, and Japan. Not only is this group ethnically diverse, its also the country’s most diverse group in terms of wage inequality, with Asian Americans overrepresented in both low-pay service industry positions, and high-pay positions in law, medicine, technology and other fields. 
There is a ton or research covering the Asian American experience in corporate America, including studies focused on the often impenetrable glass ceiling, and the widespread examples of racial, pay and gender bias they frequently experience as they ascend the corporate ladder. This week, in honor the release of the Anna May Wong quarter, we decided to review our data on Asian American CEOs, CFOs, executives and board members in the S&P 500.

Here are a few of our observations:

  • Since 2016, the S&P 500 has minted 12 new Asian American CEOs, bringing the total number to 32. This growing group includes Google’s Sundar Pichai, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, and Adobe’s Shantanu Narayen(all born in India); Broadcom’s Hock Tan (born in Malaysia), and NVIDIA’s Jensen Huang (born in Taiwan).

  • Out of the 32 Asian American CEOs in the S&P 500, only three are women. Under the eight-year tenure of Taiwanese-born Lisa Su, AMD has rallied from the brink of extinction to become one of the world’s best performing chip makers. Similarly, Jayshree Ullal of Arista Networks, and Reshma Kewalramani of cystic fibrosis giant Vertex Pharma have led their companies through periods of significant growth. 

  • AMD (Lisa Su and Devinder Kumar), Enphase (Badri Kothandaraman and Mandy Yang) and Waters Corp. (Udit Batra and Amol Chaubal) are currently the only S&P 500 companies with Asian American CEOs and CFOs. Micron Technologies (Sanjay Mehrotra and Sumit Sadana) also held this distinction until April of this year, when Sumit left his interim CFO role to resume his role as Micron’s chief business officer. 

  • Since 2014, the S&P 500 has more than doubled the number of Asian Americans in CFO roles. There are now 27 Asian Americans in CFO roles, which represents approximately five percent of the total number of positions. This group includes Meta’s Susan Li, Darden Restaurants’ Raj Vennam, Domino’s Pizza CFO Sandeep Reddy, Electronic Arts’ Chris Suh, and Visa’s Vasant M. Prabhu.
  • In 2014, two hundred board seats were held by Asian Americans, today that number stands at 324. In total, 290 individuals hold these 324 seats – this group is too large to list in full, but a few notable directors include Angela Wei Dong, who joined Estee Lauder’s board in July; Hiro Mizuno, who joined Tesla’s board in 2020 after serving as the head of the Japanese government’s pension fund; former PepsiCo CEO Indra Noori, who joined Amazon’s board in 2019; and Narrativ CEO Li Chen, who joined Warner Bros. board this year (Li is also one of the youngest directors in the S&P 500, as we discussed in last week’s article, “The Young and the Restless: The S&P 500’s Youngest and Oldest Board Members). 

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