August 5, 2021

“Since July 2020, 148 companies have appointed an African-American director, compared to 52 the previous year”

Just a year ago, in Minneapolis (Minnesota), George Floyd suffocated under the knee of a white policeman, Derek Chauvin. Tuesday, May 25, Joe Biden received the family of the African-American victim at the White House and recalled, as during his election campaign, that “Black lives matter” (« Black lives matter »).

This drama may not have changed their condition, but it has at least rekindled the debate on their place in corporate governing bodies and helped unlock American society a bit. Since then, the presence of blacks in places of power, whatever they are, has been scrutinized more closely. The economic sector does not escape this scrutiny any more than politics, education, justice or culture. And this anniversary day was chosen by the consulting firm ISS Corporate Solutions (ICS) to publish a study concluding that the number of black directors has risen sharply in one year in the companies of the S&P 500, the American benchmark index.

Also listen How George Floyd’s death changed America

Between the 1is July 2020 and May 19, 2021, 148 companies appointed a black director, compared to 52 during the same period 2019-2020. Or a third of the new directors, against 11% a year earlier. “The needle has clearly moved”, said Marija Kramer, an ICS manager, welcoming that the pool of talent from minorities is growing. Women are the first to benefit, allowing companies to kill two birds with one stone to meet a growing demand for diversity. As was the case for Ursula Burns at Xerox and today for Mellody Hobson, named non-executive president of Starbucks in December.

Facilitate access to good schools

African Americans occupy only 10.6% of seats in boards, approaching their 13.4% share of the US population. But white males remain dominant at the top of big business. There are a handful of black CEOs, such as Arnold W. Donald, boss of cruise line Carnival (2013-2020), or Kenneth Frazier, head of pharmacy giant Merck for eleven years. “George Floyd could be me”, he had let go a few days after the murder. The leader finds that we have paid a lot of words in this matter, that we must above all facilitate the access of his community to the best schools. Pension funds, asset managers, unions and even the Nasdaq are mobilizing. There will undoubtedly be an “after-George Floyd”.