Eight Black CEOs lead companies that have landed on the 2023 Fortune 500 list, the most since the rankings' debut in 1955, per the company's website.
Two of the eight Black executives joined the Fortune 500 list for the first time ever. Calvin Butler Jr. jumped up the ranks in December 2022 as the CEO of energy provider Exelon, which landed at No. 218 on the list. Christopher Womack, the CEO of Southern Company, an Atlanta-based gas and utility company, is also a new entrant to the group of Black CEOs after earning the top position in May.
A third Black executive, René Jones of New York's M&T Bank, returned to the ranking after the bank was dropped from last year's list due to a decrease in revenue.
Though the ranking holds a record number of Black executives, they still only make up less than 2 percent of all Fortune 500 CEOs. Black CEOs face higher expectations to prove their qualifications despite being more educated than their white counterparts, according to a 2022 study published in the Strategic Management Journal.
“There are a plethora of talented, qualified, extraordinary leaders who happen to be Black. It's never a surprise when they advance to the C-suite, or even to the CEO position,” said Laura Morgan Roberts, an associate professor of business administration at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. “It says more about the company’s and the board of directors’ ability to recognize, develop, and advance talent from all backgrounds than it says about the representation of leaders themselves.”
Organizations also tend to rely on "prototypes of effective leadership that factor in attributes like skill set, personality, interaction style, and relationships with internal and external stakeholders. These marks of a quality leader have traditionally skewed white," Fortune reports.
“There are a plethora of Black leaders who are qualified for CEO positions, but they aren't selected for those positions because they don't necessarily have the relationships or fit the prototype of who the next CEO for said corporation should be,” Roberts said.
Despite these obstacles, eight Black CEOs have made it on this year's Fortune 500 rankings. See the full list below.
Rosalind (Roz) Brewer
Company: Walgreens Boots Alliance
2023 rank: No. 27
2023 rank: No. 39
Thasunda Brown Duckett
2023 rank: No. 103
Company: Southern Company
2023 rank: No. 138
2023 rank: No. 218
Franklin Clyburn Jr.
Company: International Flavors & Fragrances
2023 rank: No. 332
David Rawlinson II
Company: Qurate Retail
2023 rank: No. 342