Women Executives’ Advice on Changing Up Workplace Demographics

By Danielle Hess

Over the years, there’s been much talk about the makeup of Fortune 500 CEOs and how women and people of color are lacking at the top.

While some progress has been made, there’s much work to be done.

Research from the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) shows that in 2021, 86% of Fortune 500 CEOs were white men, which was up slightly from 2020. Thirty four CEOs were white women, two were Black men, two were Black women, 17 were Latino men, 10 were Asian men, five were Asian women and zero were Latina women. 

The two Black women who are CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are also on our 2022 Top 50 Companies for Diversity list. Those women are Thasunda Brown Duckett, CEO of the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America or TIAA (No. 8 on the 2022 Top 50 list) and Rosalind “Roz” Brewer, CEO of Walgreens (No. 40 on the list). 

Hiring and Retaining Talent

During a conversation with DiversityInc CEO Carolynn L. Johnson at our 2021 Women of Color and Their Allies event, Duckett shared her words of wisdom on hiring and retaining top diverse talent. 

“First, you have to take a step back and say, what do we have to do to even get to the point? Then you have to keep these four things in play. One is mindset. We have to have a mindset shift. It sounds nuanced, but it is the starting spot. Do we fundamentally believe that talent is created equally, but opportunity is not? If we fundamentally believe that, then we’ll do the work. Which leads you to the second point; you have to aggregate your data. You will then say, ‘Where do I not see representation? Why do I see over 50% of women being represented at the lower rung? Why are they not ascending? Why are we seeing Black women not elevating? What is the issue?

“Third, you look at your process and practices. If I have a mindset shift and aggregate the data, then what further actions can I take? To change any outcome, you have to start somewhere. So, that is a practice shift. You can’t just start with interns. You have to look at your middle rung. You have to be able to say, ‘Where do we see different groups being stuck and why? And what do we have to do? What are the tools? What are the insights? What are the different ecosystems? What are the policies that we may need to challenge ourselves in order to have forward progress?

“And finally, you have to take accountability. What gets measured gets done. We can talk about programs, but if the programs don’t lead to outcomes that can change the representation, then it’s just a soundbite.”

Out of the 50 companies on our 2022 Top 50 list, nine companies have a woman CEO. 

Being an Ally

To further the advancement of people of color in executive leadership roles, it is important for those who have privilege to use their voice and their position within a company to advocate for others. 

During a recent webinar titled “White Allyship and Workplace Equity,” Patricia Rossmann, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at BASF (No. 12 on DiversityInc’s 2022 Top 50 Companies for Diversity list), said she’s taken the definition of allyship “to heart over the years.”

“[Allyship is] someone who is not a member of a particular underrepresented group, but who takes deliberate action to support that group. I think it’s up to people who hold these positions of influence and privilege to be active allies to those with less access. Take responsibility for making changes that will help others be successful.”

By Tamar Celis
Tamar Celis Career Advising Specialist