Trends in Representation of Black Leaders

As Black History Month comes to an end, we thought we would take a look at trends in representation of Black leaders in the C-Suite and the boardroom.

Starting in 2020, many companies committed to adding people of color to their board—either explicitly through commitments such as the The Board Challenge (adding a Black director in the next 12 months), or through programs and policies such as a commitment to a diverse slate for director recruitment (The Rooney Rule or something similar).

As of today, our tracking shows that 56% of S&P 500 companies have a board diversity nomination policy, for example PayPal:

The Governance Committee values diversity as a factor in selecting nominees. When searching for new directors, the Governance Committee actively seeks out highly qualified women and individuals from underrepresented communities to include in the initial pool from which Board nominees are chosen.

Initially, there was a large jump in representation of Black directors but progress has leveled off:

  • Black directors hold 11.9% of board seats at S&P 500 companies, up from 9.5% at the end of 2020 and 7.1% in 2016.
  • In the Russell 1000, 10.4% of directors are Black, up from 7.9% in 2020 and 5.7% in 2016 

When looking at how many Black individuals hold seats on S&P 500 Boards, things look less rosy. There are 664 seats in the S&P 500 held by Black board members. 498 individuals hold those seats. This means on average each Black individual is on 1.33 boards. Comparatively Hispanic/Latino individuals are on 1.21 boards, white individuals are on 1.19 boards, and Asian individuals are on 1.14 boards. 

In the C-Suite, trends are (relatively) more positive—the number of Black CEOs leading S&P 500 companies has doubled since 2016, but there are still only 8 out of 505 (5 companies have co-CEOs). In the Russell 1000, there are now 12 Black CEOs compared to just 4 in 2016.

There are 13 Black CFOs at S&P 500 companies compared to 6 in 2016, and 21 Black CFOs at Russell 1000 companies vs. just 8 in 2016.

Self-Identification and Intersectional Diversity

One of the biggest changes we have seen in the last 3 or 4 years is how prevalent disclosure of self-identification has become. While Nasdaq-listed boards are required to disclose aggregate intersectional diversity statistics (gender + race/ethnicity) nearly half of S&P 500 companies now disclose each individual director’s gender and race/ethnicity, and we expect that to significantly increase in the upcoming proxy season.

As an example, last year Broadcom used the standard board diversity grid, and this year they moved to including person-level detail in the skills matrix.

These disclosures, along with an immense amount of work from our research team analyzing public sources—articles, interviews, podcasts, membership organizations/lists, voter registration records, obituaries, etc.—have helped us work towards nearing over 90% confidence in the self-identified characteristics of current board members at large companies.

Articles Related to the Above ^

Here is what else we’re reading on the subject:

  • Black CEO representation on the Fortune 500 is so bad that this year’s 1.6% is a near-record high. Here’s what could turn it around (Fortune)
  • Boardroom Power 2023: Slower Progress In Black Representation With Dei Backlash (Black Enterprise)
  • 2023 S&P 500 New Director and Diversity Snapshot (Spencer Stuart)
  • African American representation on Fortune 1000 boards: 2022 Edition (KPMG)

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