Here are the eight Black CEOs who led Fortune 500 Companies in 2023

BY Ben Ebuka Oji January 12, 2024 11:11 AM EDT
Christopher Womack, President and CEO of Southern Company was one of eight Black CEOs heading a Fortune 500 firm at the end of 2023. Photo Credit: Southern Company

Despite a series of diversity programs and the commitments made by corporate America, the representation of African-American chief executives leading Fortune 500 companies remains disappointingly minimal. In 2022, there were merely six Black CEOs in charge of such companies.

Within the corporate landscape of America, charges of discrimination have been hurled at boards who have said they are doing everything possible to see ideals of representation reflect in upper echelons of management. However, Black executives continue to overcome additional obstacles to demonstrate their competence.

A study published in the Strategic Management Journal in 2022 reveals that Black CEOs usually possess higher levels of education than their white counterparts. However, they face heightened expectations to constantly validate their qualifications.

Through an analysis of thousands of CEO appointments spanning the past two decades, the researchers discovered notable short-term advantages associated with the appointment of Black leaders. Nevertheless, these findings do not indicate the eradication of obstacles hindering the progress of Black CEOs in the corporate hierarchy. Interestingly, the study revealed that market reactions to the appointments of Black CEOs are more favorable than those of White CEOs.

Reviewing CEO appointments from 2001 to 2020, the researchers discovered that a median-sized firm appointing a Black chief executive experienced an additional short-term increase of 3.1 percent in their market capitalization three days after the announcement.

In contrast, firms that appointed White CEOs saw their market capitalization decrease by 0.91 percent during the same period, an indication of investors’ comfort with Black executives, whose qualifications often exceed those of their White counterparts, as noted by Seung-Hwan Jeong of the University of Georgia and Ann Mooney Murphy of the Stevens Institute of Technology, two of the researchers.

According to the researchers, “to be considered for appointment as CEO, Black executives would have to repeatedly prove themselves over the course of their careers in ways White CEOs do not. As a result, newly appointed Black CEOs are likely to exhibit exceptional attributes relative to their White counterparts.”

Ayana Parsons, a senior partner at Korn Ferry specializing in board and CEO inclusion, stated that Black employees in corporate America frequently exhibit superior performance compared to their White counterparts. However, Black CEOs encounter a significant obstacle in their career progression due to the absence of sponsorship from senior leaders, which is crucial for ascending the corporate hierarchy. Regrettably, these individuals are often evaluated solely based on their current performance rather than their potential.

Black CEOs constitute a mere 1.6% of the overall number of Fortune 500 CEOs. This figure falls significantly short in contrast to the current labor force of Black Americans, which stands at 12.6%.

Additionally, the lack of gender diversity among Black CEOs is a matter of concern. Out of the 25 Black executives who have led Fortune 500 companies, a mere four are women. However, opportunities exist for companies to enhance their diversity and inclusivity, such as through sponsorship, high-potential leadership development programs, and inclusive leadership skills training for the majority groups in the workforce.

 Rosalind “Roz” Brewer

CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance

Rank on the 2023 Fortune 500 list: 27

Roz Brewer, a distinguished CEO, has amassed almost two decades of leadership prowess at top companies, including Kimberly-Clark, Starbucks, and Walmart. Rosalind is one of just two Black women featured on the list. Having assumed the CEO position at Walgreens Boots Alliance in 2021, Brewer has demonstrated remarkable leadership, driving the group to yield a substantial $132.7 billion in revenue in 2022.

Brewer left her post in October of 2023 after a mutual agreement with the board.

Marvin Ellison

CEO of Lowe’s Companies, Inc.

Rank on the 2023 Fortune 500 list: 39

Marvin Ellison, the erstwhile Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of J.C. Penney, holds the distinction of being the sole Black CEO to have helmed two Fortune 500 companies. Ellison is a preeminent retail executive and the current Chairman and CEO of Lowe’s Companies Inc., a Fortune 50 home improvement enterprise with a vast network of over 2,200 stores and approximately 300,000 associates across the United States and Canada. Marvin led Lowe’s to a remarkable $97.1 billion revenue in the 2022 fiscal year.

Thasunda Brown Duckett


Rank on the 2023 Fortune 500 list: 103

Thasunda Brown Duckett, an American businesswoman, assumed the role of president and Chief Executive Officer at TIAA in May 2021. This appointment marked her as the fourth Black woman to hold such a position within a Fortune 500 company. Before her tenure at TIAA, Duckett served as the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase Consumer Banking. Under her guidance, TIAA experienced a remarkable surge in revenue, surpassing $40 billion in 2022.

Christopher Womack

President and CEO of Southern Company

Rank on the 2023 Fortune 500 list: 138

Christopher Womack, the newest entrant to the esteemed Fortune 500 list, embarked on his professional journey with Southern Company in 1988, assuming the role of a governmental affairs representative for Alabama Power. Demonstrating an exceptional trajectory, he steadily progressed through the ranks, ultimately attaining the esteemed positions of Chairman, President, and CEO of Georgia Power in 2021. Before this significant appointment, Womack held several executive positions within Southern Company, including executive vice president and president of external affairs.

Calvin Butler, Jr.

CEO of Exelon Corp.

Rank on the 2023 Fortune 500 list: 218

Calvin Butler, Jr., one of the newest entrants to the Fortune 500 list, holds the esteemed position of President and Chief Executive Officer at Exelon, the largest utility company in the United States in terms of customer count. In his capacity, he oversees the operations of Exelon’s six local electric and natural gas companies, which cater to approximately 10 million customers across New Jersey, Maryland, Illinois, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia. In addition to his role as CEO, Butler also serves as the Board Chairman of each of the Utilities and is a member of Exelon’s executive committee. His leadership is instrumental in driving Exelon’s revenue to $19.1 billion in the 2022 fiscal year.

Frank Clyburn

CEO of International Flavors and Fragrances

Rank on the 2023 Fortune 500 list: 332

Frank Clyburn, gained considerable recognition upon his assumption of the role of Chief Executive Officer at IFF (International Flavors and Fragrances) in February 2022. Before his tenure at IFF, Clyburn demonstrated exceptional leadership and management qualities during his time at Merck & Co. There, he effectively cultivated a flourishing cancer division, propelling it to become the company’s foremost enterprise on a global scale.

David Rawlinson

CEO of Qurate Retail Group 

Rank on the 2023 Fortune 500 list: 342

David Rawlinson holds the esteemed position of Chief Executive Officer at Qurate Retail Group, a prominent American media conglomerate – the parent company of QVC, HSN, and Zulily shopping television networks. Before assuming this role in October 2021, Rawlinson served as the President and CEO of Qurate Retail, Inc. from August 2021 to September 2021.

René F. Jones

CEO of M&T Bank

Rank on the 2023 Fortune 500 list: 439

In 2023, Rene F. Jones returned to the Fortune 500 list as the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of M&T Bank, a prominent banking franchise with a strong emphasis on community engagement in the eastern region of the United States. Through his astute leadership, M&T Bank successfully accumulated assets totaling $200 billion and established an extensive network of over 1,000 branches. Mr. Jones commenced his tenure at M&T Bank in 2005, assuming the role of Chief Financial Officer. During his tenure in this position, he played a crucial role in effectively overseeing the company’s financial affairs. Recognizing his exceptional contributions, he was subsequently appointed Chairman and CEO in December 2017.