Finance company TIAA has tapped former JPMorgan Chase & Co executive, Thasunda Brown Duckett, to become the company’s new chief executive and president, according to The Washington Post.
Duckett, who oversaw tens of thousands of employees and over $600 billion in deposits, is taking the reins from Roger W. Ferguson Jr., and the move is the first time a Fortune 500 company has had two consecutive Black leaders.
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While CEO of TIAA, Ferguson Jr. was one of four CEOs of a Fortune 500 company before he announced his retirement and Duckett is the second Black woman to be promoted to a top position this year. Rosalind “Roz” Brewer was announced as the new CEO of Starbucks.
The Fortune 500 has, for years, been fraught with diversity and inclusion issues, such as not openly sharing diversity data. Michael Hyter, incoming president and CEO of the Black executive advocacy group, Executive Leadership Council, called Duckett’s appointment a “major moment,” according to WaPo.
“A new norm can form when things like this occur,” said Hyter, who went on to call Duckett a well qualified and proven executive who is ready to lead TIAA.
Things haven’t always looked so optimistic in recent years. According to a 2019 survey report from COQUAL, which was funded in part by Disney and Pfizer, only 3.2% of the senior leadership at large companies in the U.S are Black. The survey responders said they have to work harder than their peers in order to advance and according to the report, they often feel the need to leave due to being overlooked.
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“It’s embarrassing because there are thousands of Black people who are just as qualified or more qualified than I am who deserve the opportunity, but haven’t been given the opportunity,” said Kenneth Chenault, former American Express CEO, according to CBSNews.
The millions that companies are spending on the retainment of employees of color and on diversity efforts are not doing much to change the landscape, but the report suggested that management bias training and clear standards for promotions will go a long way to help Black employees rise to the top and stay there.
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