Bringing Diversity to the Executive Suite

ELC President & CEO Arnold Donald is pursuing a bold mission to demonstrate that inclusion within corporate America's top ranks will drive innovation—and profits

Arnold Donald, CEO of Executive Leadership Council

When Arnold Donald took the helm as president and CEO of the Executive Leadership Council, a network of the nation’s most powerful African American executives, he came with a bold mandate to diversify America’s executive suites and boardrooms. In fact, he recently announced his “call to action,” a five-year initiative to push for at least one African American senior executive as an enterprise CEO or within two levels of that position at each of the largest publicly traded companies, and a net increase of at least 200 African Americans on such boards within a half decade.

Donald seeks to galvanize his membership of 500 senior executives around this effort at a time when African Americans represent less than 1% of the CEOs of the leading 500 publicly traded companies. And according to the report Missing Pieces: Women and Minorities on Fortune 500 Boards—2010 Alliance for Board Diversity Census, this segment has lost significant ground in America’s corporate boardrooms between 2004 and 2010. There have been some recent positive developments though: Next month, Donald Thompson will be installed as CEO of McDonald’s Corp., the world’s largest fast-food restaurant chain, and Rosalind G. Brewer was recently promoted to president and CEO of Sam’s Club, the mammoth division of Walmart that dwarfs some of the nation’s largest corporations.

Tapped to head ELC more than a year ago by its board, Donald offered the right experience and credentials to impact global business leadership. He had previously served as chairman and CEO of Merisant Co., a manufacturer of food sweeteners, and during his tenure there was named the 1997 Black Enterprise Corporate Executive of the Year. Here he discusses how “the power of inclusion can result in advancing major corporations and growth of increasing shareholder value.”

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