The value of diversity in corporate America cannot be overstated. Whether in the boardroom or on a retail sales floor, a diverse pool of people brings unique perspectives, original ideas, and an edge factor that can help any business create out-the-box solutions.
Still, despite mounds of research underscoring the value of hiring people from different backgrounds, a recent study by the Financial Times found that older white men comprise the majority of the boards of directors at U.S. companies. According to U.S. board composition: male, stale and frail?, the average board member is 62 years old and has served for nearly a decade. In turn, African Americans are not being heard and included in boardrooms when important decisions regarding a company’s operations, CEO appointment, and compensation policies are being made. This applies to Netflix, PayPal, eBay, Yahoo, Inc. and a list of other companies that do not have an African American seated on their boards.
Along with calling out corporations for excluding blacks in their boardrooms, Black Enterprise is also spotlighting prominent African American executives and retirees who serve as corporate directors at companies across the nation. Here is a list of 10 black men and women using their expertise to provide insight and oversight at widely recognized household brand-name companies.
Marvin R. Ellison
Marvin R. Ellison, President & CEO, J. C. Penney Co. Inc.
Board: FedEx Corp.
With 20-plus years of retail experience under his belt, Marvin R. Ellison has risen in the ranks to become the president and CEO of J.C. Penney, and one of just five African Americans currently running a Fortune 500 company. For the last two years, Ellison has been serving as an independent director for FedEx, where he sits on both the Compensation Committee and the Nominating & Governance Committee. Since taking charge of J.C. Penney in 2014, the 51-year-old executive has been praised for reinventing the century-old department store using simple and smart techniques. Ellison also helped spearhead a successful turnaround at Home Depot while working as an executive vice president of U.S. Stores at the chain from 2008 to 2014.Mellody Hobson
Mellody Hobson, President, Ariel Investments L.L.C.
Boards: Estée Lauder Cos., Starbucks Corp.
While only in her mid-30s, Mellody Hobson was appointed as a board director of Starbucks, where she serves on the Compliance Committee and chairs the Audit Committee. The 47-year-old businesswoman began her career as an intern at Ariel Investments shortly after graduating from Princeton University. As a standout employee at the Chicago-based investment management firm, she went on to become the senior vice president and director of marketing before being named as president in 2000. Today, Ariel is noted as one of the largest black-owned money management and mutual fund firms in the country.
Furthermore, Hobson—who also happens to be the wife of Star Wars creator George Lucas—has racked up a slew of prestigious accolades throughout her career. This includes being named on TIME’s 2015 list of “The 100 Most Influential People,” Ebony‘s “20 Leaders of the Future” in 1992, and The Wall Street Journal‘s 50 “Women to Watch” in 2004.