- Ethnically and racially diverse executives hold just 12.5% of CEO, CFO and COO positions in Fortune 500 and S&P 500 companies this year, while women occupy 13.7% of the seats, according to a study provided to CFO Dive this week by executive search firm Crist|Kolder Associates.
- At the same time, the study’s findings do show diversity has gained a toehold over the last decade and those levels are up respectively from last year when Latino, Black and Asian executives held 11% of the roles and women held 12.3%.
- Josh Crist, co-managing partner at Crist|Kolder, said the push toward more diverse executive hiring remains top of mind for many of his clients. That ongoing effort will be key to driving more diversity in C-suites, he also noted. “We need to continue to push the envelope on the promotion of diverse talent. If we don’t we’ll lose the momentum gained over the last five years,” Crist wrote in an emailed response to questions. “That can’t happen.”
The Volatility Report’s wide-ranging mid-year update on C-suite executive trends tracked data from 648 public companies and 26 private companies through Aug. 15.
Diversity levels vary across roles, it found. The total number of CFO positions held by ethnically and racially diverse executives more than tripled to 81 (12%) out of a total 672 sitting CFOs from 26 in 2013 while the numbers for women are creeping up a little faster, rising to comprise 126 (18.8%) of finance chief positions at the companies tracked, up from 16.3% last year. Separately, the share of CEO seats occupied by ethnically and racially diverse people and women stands at 12.9% and 8.7%, respectively.
The report’s findings come amid a backlash against diversity initiatives that has embroiled businesses, colleges and communities nationwide.
Most recently Edward Blum, a conservative advocate who spearheaded the suit behind the U.S. Supreme Court’s latest decision to end race-conscious affirmative action in college admissions, sued two law firms accusing them of “unlawful racial discrimination against white candidates,” The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.
The study findings, however, show that White males still hold nearly 90% of the top C-suite roles at major corporations.
Crist said he hasn’t seen and doesn’t expect a stalling of diversity initiatives in the wake of the backlash. “Though disappointing, the politicization of diversity initiatives has not caused a slow down in top of house diverse recruitment,” Crist said. “This is a small blip in what is a major initiative that has a wave of ‘across the board’ support to bring diverse executives to the forefront. No backlash will be able to stem that tide.”
Crist said companies are continuing to ask for a diverse slate of candidates on every project and his firm now guarantees that in its executive search contracts. “That won’t go away any time soon,” he said.