February 1, 2023
According to the recently released U.S. Census Bureau Annual Business Survey, approximately 1.15 million or 19.9% of employer businesses are minority-owned. And of that group, there are an estimated 140,918 Black- or African American-owned businesses with $141.1 billion in annual receipts, 1.3 million employees, and about $42.2 billion in annual payroll.
While strides have been made to encourage Black entrepreneurship, business ownership and leadership, there’s still a long way to go, especially when it comes to participation in the markets. Only 34% of Black households own equity investments as compared with 61% of white families, according to Federal Reserve Board’s most recent survey.
But as Black History Month begins, it is important to celebrate the people and companies that are leading the way. We’ll start with important African American business leaders this week and highlight companies that were founded by Black entrepreneurs next week. These executives rose through the ranks of the corporate world – often against tremendous odds – to lead publicly traded companies.
Rosalind (Roz) Brewer – Walgreens Boots Alliance (Tii:WBA)
Rosalind (Roz) Brewer joined Walgreens Boots Alliance as chief executive officer in 2021, becoming the first Black woman to lead a Fortune 500 company. She also is a director on WBA’s board. Brewer most recently served as chief operating officer and group president at Starbucks. Prior to Starbucks, she served as president and chief executive officer of Sam’s Club. She also held a number of executive leadership positions with Walmart. She is currently ranked #7 on Fortune’s 50 Most Powerful Women in Business and was named one of the 25 most influential women by the Financial Times in 2021.
Marvin Ellison – Lowe’s (Tii:LOW)
Marvin Ellison, chairman, president and chief executive officer of big box home improvement retailer Lowe’s, is the only Black CEO to lead two different Fortune 500 companies. He was formerly at the helm of J.C. Penney prior to moving to Lowe’s. He has extensive experience in the home improvement industry, having spent 12 years in senior-level operations roles with Home Depot (Tii:HD). Most notably he served as executive vice president of U.S. stores from 2008 to 2014, dramatically improving customer service and efficiency across the organization, as he oversaw U.S. sales, operations, installation services, tool rental and pro strategic initiatives. Prior to Home Depot, Marvin spent 15 years at Target Corp. in a variety of operational and leadership roles.
David Rawlinson II – Qurate Retail (Tii:QRTEA)
David Rawlinson is the president and CEO of Qurate Retail, where he leads a select group of seven leading retail brands – QVC, HSN, Zulily, Ballard Designs, Frontgate, Garnet Hill and Grandin Road – which together form Qurate Retail Group. Qurate Retail Group is the largest player in video commerce (vCommerce), which includes video-driven shopping across TV, ecommerce sites, digital streaming and social platforms. In 2021, Qurate Retail delivered approximately $14 billion in revenue, served more than 20 million customers across seven countries, and had thousands of employees worldwide. The retailer reaches more than 200 million homes worldwide via 14 television channels. He joined Qurate Retail from NielsenIQ, where he served as CEO and led the company through a transition to new ownership. Prior to that, he was president of Grainger Global Online, where he led the fastest growth, stand-alone division of W.W. Grainger (Tii:GWW).
Robert Reffkin – Compass (Tii:COMP)
Robert Reffkin isn’t just the CEO of real estate company Compass, he is one of its founders. Reffkin was inspired to enter the world of real estate by his mother, Ruth, a longtime agent who now works at Compass. Reffkin earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Columbia University and worked at McKinsey, Goldman Sachs, and as a White House Fellow. He ran 50 marathons in 50 states to raise $1 million dollars for charities — including for America Needs You, the non-profit he founded to serve young people living below the poverty line who are the first in their families to go to college. He is donating all his proceeds from his new book, “No One Succeeds Alone,” to nonprofits that help young people realize their dreams.
Frank Clyburn – International Flavors & Fragrances (Tii:IFF)
Frank Clyburn was appointed chief executive officer of International Flavors & Fragrances in February 2022, a company that creates scents, tastes, experiences and ingredients for products. The company is a global leader in food, beverage, health, biosciences and sensorial experiences. Previously, he held the role of executive vice president and president of human health for Merck & Co. (Tii:MRK), where he had full profit and loss responsibility of its largest business and held several positions since he joined the company in 2008. Before joining Merck, Clyburn was vice president of the Oncology and Internal Medicine business units at Sanofi (Tii:SNY) and held a wide range of leadership roles with the company.
Cathy Hughes – Urban1 (Tii:UONE)
Cathy Hughes is founder and chairperson of Urban1 the largest African American owned and operated broadcast company in the nation. Her career has spawned a multi-media conglomerate that generates original content across the spectrums of radio, television and digital media. In 1999, she became the first African American woman to chair a publicly held corporation.
Craig Arnold – Eaton (Tii:ETN)
Craig Arnold is chairman and chief executive officer of Eaton, a power management company.
He became chairman and CEO in 2016. A year prior, he was appointed a member of the company’s board of directors and named Eaton’s president and chief operating officer. He joined the company in 2000 and served in a variety of roles. Prior to Eaton, Arnold worked at General Electric where he served as corporate vice president and president, GE Lighting Services and led the company’s lighting business in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and India.
While this is an impressive list of executives, it represents a small percentage of leadership in publicly traded companies. Black Americans make up 13.6% of the country’s population, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau data. Still, only 5.9% of all chief executives in the U.S. are Black, while 85.7% are White, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
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