Jul 26, 2022 - Business

Richmond's white man CEO problem

Illustration of a woman in a suit with a briefcase climbing a ladder that is disappearing
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The CEOs of Richmond's publicly traded companies — among the highest paid positions in the region — are all men, and all but one of the 22 people on the list are white, according to a list of the positions compiled by Richmond BizSense.

  • The collage of headshots that illustrates the Bizense story is striking.

Why it matters: Despite two years of pledges from corporations all over the country to increase diversity and inclusion in their ranks, there has been no progress when it comes to Richmond's top jobs.

What they're saying: "I find it difficult in this day and age, in a country that's very diverse, that this is what [Richmond's CEOs] look like," Byron Boston, CEO of Dynex Capital and the sole CEO of color on the Richmond list, tells Axios.

Zoom out: The stats aren't much better state and nationwide:

  • Of the 21 Fortune 500 companies in Virginia, women lead only three of them. And none of the 21 are people of color, an Axios analysis shows.
  • Nationwide, Fortune magazine said this year a record number of women and Black executives were CEOs on its 500 list: 44 women and six Black men. Out of 500.

The big picture: Studies have shown that diverse teams that are also inclusive are more creative and more collaborative, Jonathan Zur, president and CEO of Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities, tells Axios.

  • "It's pictures like that that make blatant the patterns that exist in our society," Zur says of the BizSense collage. "If we looked at this picture 10, 20 or 30 years ago, it wouldn't have looked that much different."

Zur and his nonprofit lead training in diversity and inclusion, including working with local businesses, especially in the wake of George Floyd's murder.

  • He said the training emphasizes the importance not only of representation in the room, but also in the pipeline for new hires and manager promotions.

State of play: Lack of diversity starts with the talent pipeline, particularly for women, per a 2021 Women in the Workplace study from LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company.

  • Women enter the workforce at about the same rate as men, but throughout promotion opportunities, women and people of color lag behind at every rung.

Of note: Richmond is far more diverse than the U.S. average:

  • The metro area is 38.9% nonwhite versus a U.S. average of 27.5%.

What we're watching: The Greater Richmond Partnership, the regional economic development nonprofit, is focusing on touting Richmond's diversity to bring more employers to the region, Jennifer Wakefield, president and CEO of the group, tells Axios.

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