D&I Execs Are Gaining Traction in the F500, but They Still Have a Ways to Go

George PaulFeatures

The Fortune 500 is synonymous with American big business, eliciting notions of success and technological innovation. However, the companies on this coveted list aren’t always known for their meaningful embrace of diversity, especially in their top ranks.

For instance, as of October 2020, women only hold about a fifth of C-suite posts at Fortune 500 companies but account for almost half of entry-level positions. While this number is discouraging, it is improving each year due to efforts put forth by the fastest-growing role in the C-suite — Chief Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Officers.

D&I has typically been a function buried deep within an HR department’s org chart, but in the last few years, it has taken a leading role as companies grapple with increasingly prominent racial and social issues.

Companies that haven’t embraced the need for D&I leaders risk lower retention of current diverse employees and can find it harder to recruit diverse talent.

But that’s not all, as weak diversity efforts can damage a company’s performance, and in turn, their bottom line as companies in the top quartiles for gender and racial diversity on executive teams were respectively 25% and 36% more likely to have above-average profitability than rivals in the bottom quartile, according to McKinsey.

Given the benefits that D&I professionals bring to the table, we wondered how many Fortune 500 companies employ a Chief D&I Officer and which industries were falling short.

IndustryNumber of CompaniesCompanies With a D&I ChiefPercent of Industry
Mechanical or Industrial Engineering5360%
Facilities Services2150%
Logistics and Supply Chain5240%
Transportation, Trucking, and Railroad6233%
Packaging and Containers6233%
Computer Software3133%
Health, Wellness, and Fitness3133%
Consumer Goods15426.7%
Information Technology and Services23521.7%
Hospitals and Health Care19421.1%
Aviation and Aerospace5120%
Financial Services49918.3%
Real Estate6116.7%
Food and Beverages15213.3%
Oil and Energy3412.9%
Mining and Metals1000%
Medical Devices700%
Electronics Manufacturing600%
Food Production600%
Apparel and Fashion500%
Building Materials400%
Leisure, Travel, and Tourism300%
Business Supplies and Equipment300%
Marketing and Advertising300%
Computer Hardware200%
Paper and Forest Products200%
Civil Engineering200%
Staffing and Recruiting200%
Broadcast Media200%
Environmental Services200%
Glass, Ceramics, and Concrete200%
Investment Management200%

In our analysis of the Fortune 500 by industry (excluding industries with just one company), we found that 60% of mechanical/industrial engineering businesses and 50% of banking, telecoms, facility services and restaurant company’s employ D&I chiefs.

On the other hand, notable industries with few or even no D&I chiefs include the oil and energy sector, in which just one of 34 Fortune 500 companies has a top-level D&I leader. In addition, the IT, financial services, utilities, automotive, insurance and oil and gas industries have disappointing showings as well, given their large sample sizes.

This isn’t to say that many of the companies in these sectors don’t have a senior D&I executive (think a VP or Head of D&I) — just that they haven’t been brought into the C-suite.

Additionally, if a company employs a Chief D&I Officer, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are taking the requisite steps beyond filling another seat. D&I leaders have a fairly high turnover rate and those that left their roles have cited a lack of resources as well as unrealistic expectations and poor support from senior executives at their companies.

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