Key Speakers At The Bloomberg Year Ahead Summit
Roger Ferguson became CEO of TIAA in 2008.Michael Nagle—Bloomberg via Getty Images
Key Speakers At The Bloomberg Year Ahead Summit
Merck & Co. Chief Executive Officer Kenneth Frazier Interview
President Trump Meets With The Retail Industry Leaders Association
The New York Times 2017 DealBook Conference
Ursula Burns, chief executive officer of Xerox Corporation, takes part in a discussion during the Clinton Global Initiative's annual meeting in New York
McDonald's Corp. Chief Executive Officer Don Thompson Interview
Rodney O'Neal, Chief Executive Officer of Delphi Automotive LLP, smiles after ringing the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange
Key Speakers At The Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting
Trading On The Floor Of The NYSE As U.S. Stocks Fluctuate Amid Focus on Interest Rates, Looming Data
Ronald Williams, Chairman and C.E.O. of Aetna Inc., speaks at the Reuters Health Summit in New York
Handshake at Sears Kmart press conference in New York.
File photo dated 15 October, 2002 shows AOL Time W
E. Stanley O'Neal Photo Session
Acting Boeing CEO James Bell Presents A Gift To The City Of Chicago
Former Fannie Mae Chief Executive Officer Franklin Raines li
CEO Lloyd Ward X
Roger Ferguson became CEO of TIAA in 2008.
Michael Nagle—Bloomberg via Getty Images
1 of 16

The Number of Black CEOs at Fortune 500 Companies Is at Its Lowest Since 2002

Feb 28, 2018

From Black Panther to the Obama portraits, there's been no shortage of things to celebrate during this Black History Month. But as February comes to a close, the ranks of black chief executives are at a low point compared to recent years.

Although the visibility of people of color in television and film has increased somewhat in the last five years, according to research from UCLA, representation of African Americans in the C-suite of America's largest companies has been on the decline.

Just this month, Kenneth Chenault stepped down from his role as CEO of American Express and was replaced by Stephen Squeri, who is white.

That means only three black CEOs head up Fortune 500 companies, down from six on the 2012 list. The sitting chief executives are Kenneth Frazier at Merck, Roger Ferguson Jr. at TIAA, and Marvin Ellison at J.C. Penney.

The last time black representation at the top role was this low was in 2002 when Chenault was still at American Express, Franklin Raines was CEO of Fannie Mae, and Richard Parsons was running AOL Time Warner.

“The fact that we’re in this situation is a real problem and embarrassing for corporate America,” Chenault said in November.

In total, there have been just 16 black CEOs at the helm of Fortune 500 companies since 1999. Currently, Roger Ferguson Jr., CEO of TIAA, has the longest tenure of the three black CEOs on the list.

With the December 2016 departure of Xerox’s Ursula Burns (the first and only black woman to run a company on the Fortune 500 list), that number now includes only black men.

The racial diversity of Fortune 500 boards isn’t much better. Four out of five new appointees to boards in 2016 were white, according to last year’s Board Monitor report from Heidrick & Struggles.

Grace Donnelly 

The barriers to entry into the business world for minority talent mean that there likely won't be many new black CEOs by February 2019. However, reports on topics from the buying power of minority consumers to the box office success of diverse films show that customers could drive change if the C-suite is willing to listen.

FORTUNE may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website. Offers may be subject to change without notice.

Quotes delayed at least 15 minutes. Market data provided by Interactive Data. ETF and Mutual Fund data provided by Morningstar, Inc. Dow Jones Terms & Conditions: S&P Index data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. Terms & Conditions. Powered and implemented by Interactive Data Managed Solutions