It’s no secret that African-Americans are severely underrepresented in corporate America—in 2011, we held only 6.7 percent of the management jobs—but do you know just how underrepresented we really are?
Fortune magazine, our sister publication who just released its annual list of Fortune 500 companies, has taken an in-depth look at what it means to be a Black man in corporate America, and the results are shocking: In the history of the Fortune 500 list, only 15 CEOs have been Black (only four still hold that title).
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But the problem extends beyond statistics.
For many men, they were a unicorn, so to speak, in their own work environments. Bernard Tyson, Kaiser Permanente CEO said that he had a colleague tell him that he was the first Black man he had worked with on an equal level.
“It was at that moment I realized that the majority of the population doesn’t have any sort of mental road map for how to relate to and work with someone different from themselves,” Tyson told Fortune.
The majority of the men who were interviewed admitted that they had been shut out of business-related conversations, undermined and underestimated. One executive was even singled out for a security check while trying to enter his company’s corporate suite at an NFL football game.
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For that reason, many Black CEOs are taking it upon themselves to help lift the younger generation of Black men, whether that’s mentoring or working with HBCUs to help young men secure jobs.
“[Recruiting at HBCUs] is part of a broad plan the company has launched to change diverity numbers,” Senior Vice President at Google Alphabet David Drummond said. “We’re taking a long look at who is getting promoted and why talent may not have been as recognized in the way that it should.”