- The percentage of female CEOs and CFOs both hit an all-time high last year compared to 2020, with women comprising 6.9% of 693 sitting CEOs and 15.1% of 678 sitting CFOs, respectively, according to a survey of Fortune 500 and S&P 500 companies by Crist|Kolder Associates.
- The number of Black CFOs nearly doubled last year to 20 from 12, while the number of Asian and Indian CFOs ticked down to 39 from 40, and Hispanic CFOs held steady at 14, marking the first time in three years that the CFO grouping was more ethnically and racially diverse than CEOs.
- Despite the gains, which came off relatively low levels, white men still have a strong hold on C-suite positions. Whites make up 89.6% of the ranks and men, regardless of race, account for 88.8% out of 1,625 executives at 682 companies.
The rise in women and blacks in corporate C-suites comes as U.S. businesses have been under increasing pressure from consumers, employees, shareholders and regulators to diversify their ranks since the murder of George Floyd while in police custody in May 2020.
“The focus on ESG at the board level is affecting this dramatically,” said Josh Crist, co-managing partner at Crist|Kolder Associates. The trend also reflects a pivot by boards to engage in a top-down strategy to diversify the ranks as opposed to the bottom up-approach of recruiting and hiring women and racially diverse candidates and then promoting them up the corporate ladder that was previously more common. “That internal growth takes years,” he said.
The study also found that corporate and public boards are tapping more female and black CEOs, CFOs and COOs into service beyond their day jobs, with nearly two-third of top black executives holding external public board seats and over 25% of female C-Suite executives sitting on a Fortune 500 or S&P 500 board. By comparison, less than 9% of sitting CFOs hold an external board seat on either a Fortune 500 or S&P Company while 21% of sitting CEOs hold at least one external board seat.
The debate over just how companies should pursue DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) continues to heat up. The Securities and Exchange Commission in August backed a Nasdaq rule requiring race and gender diversity on corporate boards. But that rule now faces a legal challenge from 17 states that have supported a lawsuit challenging the SEC approval of the rule saying the requirement sets quotas that discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity and sex.