BLOOMBERG: Quotas Can Help Fix the Glaring Whiteness of America’s C-Suites

They’ve helped women. Why not apply them to the boardrooms and middle management of the Fortune 500?

By Rebecca Greenfield, June 18, 2020

At a virtual panel moderated by Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Chief Executive Officer David Solomon on the evening of June 9, Jide Zeitlin made a simple but pointed comment. “We better have more than four Black CEOs of Fortune 500 companies,” said the boss of Tapestry Inc., which owns Coach, Kate Spade, and Stuart Weitzman. “And not in 10 years. Not in 15 years. But in the next year or two or three.”

The Whiteness of America’s C-suites has always been glaring, but this call by Zeitlin—one of the four current African American corporate leaders and just 17 over the last two decades—is even more urgent against the backdrop of massive protests over police brutality and entrenched racism.

His plea isn’t likely to be heeded, however, unless companies decide to radically revamp their diversity playbooks. Over the past decade, organizations of all stripes have spent billions of dollars trying to get more members of underrepresented groups to the top, highest-paying jobs. They have poured resources into hiring, retaining, and promoting minorities and women. But for African Americans in particular, these efforts have been futile. There are fewer Black CEOs than five years ago, fewer Black executives at some of the biggest banks, and even fewer Black coaches in the NFL. The racial disparities are starkest at the top, but it doesn’t get much better further down the hierarchy. “The organizational chart at most mainstream organizations looks very similar to the organizational charts of plantations,” says Victor Ray, a sociologist of race theory at the University of Iowa. “Black folks are at the bottom.”

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