“Tremendous amounts of talent are lost in our society just because that talent wears a skirt.” –Shirley Chisholm
As we look across the nation, the statistics make clear that corporate America is in serious need of Black Girl Magic. Right now, only four Fortune 500 companies are led by an African-American CEO, none of whom are women. Just as alarming, since 1955—the very first year Fortune 500 companies were recognized—just 18 African-Americans have ever served as CEO and only two of those have been Black women (Fortune Magazine). Well, I refuse to accept the fact that there are NO Black women capable of running a Fortune 500 company because we know that is not true!
If you ask me, it is long past time corporate America embraces our talent—and not just because it is the right thing to do, but because it is good for business. In fact, a McKinsey & Co. report (Delivering Through Diversity) concluded that “companies in the top-quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 21 percent more likely to outperform on profitability.”
We move the needle in that direction when Black women are in the room. I see that happening every day in the Financial Services Committee, chaired by Congresswoman Maxine Waters—the committee’s very first Black chairwoman—who is putting corporate America on notice that the old way of doing things is over and reclaiming her time. I have the unbelievable honor to spearhead this important work as the first-ever chair of the Financial Services Subcommittee on Diversity and Inclusion.
Throughout my time in the U.S. House of Representatives, I have learned that politics in Congress are no different than the politics in corporate America. So I am using my gavel and voice to stand up to the titans of corporate America to demand their boards, C-suites and managers in the pipeline reflect the rich diversity of America. They must recognize that Black women should no longer be the “hidden figures” behind corporate success stories. We deserve a seat at the head of the table.
My signature piece of legislation, known as the Beatty Rule (Ensuring Diverse Leadership Act, H.R. 281), which recently passed the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously, will help do just that. Modeled after the National Football League’s (NFL) Rooney Rule to increase diversity among head coaches and executive management positions, the Beatty Rule seeks to increase diversity in the leadership ranks at the Federal Reserve. My bill made headlines following the selection of Raphael Bostic as the first Black man to be a Federal Reserve regional bank president in the Fed’s 106-year history. Well, we can’t wait another 106 years for the first Black woman counterpart!
Black women are prepared to make strides in corporate America, but our journey to the head of the table is still fraught with stumbling blocks—the very first Fortune 500 Black woman CEO, Ursula Burns, called it the “black ceiling.” To breakthrough, it will require intentional efforts from corporate America’s leaders to sponsor and support Black women.
However, we cannot remain silent, hoping to be noticed. We have to show up and show out. We have to raise up our voices, and that is what the women of the Congressional Black Caucus and I, as vice-chair, fully intend to do each and every day in the halls of Congress and beyond. To paraphrase one of my mentees, Ohio House Democratic Leader Emilia Sykes, “We belong.”
We belong in the C-suites. We belong in the boardroom. We belong in corporate America. We belong.
Representative Joyce Beatty (OH-03) is the vice-chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.