concrete ceilings to both symbolic seats of power have been opened (for the record, the former breakthrough came first, when Franklin Raines was named CEO of Fannie Mae in 1999, making him the first black CEO of one of the country’s top 500 publicly traded companies), some might think that the underrepresentation of African Americans at all levels of corporate America is no longer an issue. Some may even believe that lists such as the one in this issue are no longer necessary, or even relevant.
Nothing could be further from the truth. African Americans still represent only about 2% of executives at the top echelons of the nation’s leading 500 companies. The lack of representation is more apparent when you look at which executives are included in a company’s proxy statement. You’ll be hard-pressed to find more than a handful of African Americans on any corporation’s executive leadership team. So while it’s true that there are more black executives making their mark in senior-level corporate positions than ever before, it also remains true, to paraphrase my friend Rev. Al Sharpton, that corporate America is like the Rocky Mountains–the higher you climb, the whiter it gets.
The progress of African American executive talent in corporate America is undeniable, as evidenced by our list of top black corporate leaders, which has grown from the inaugural 25 to 100 talented men and women drawn from a pool of several hundred candidates. It’s great to be able to list 100, but it should be 1,000, with 100 CEOs. The achievements of the executives in this issue, and our spotlighting them, will go a long way toward bringing that reality to fruition.