Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Someone's Missing from the Fortunate 50 Why Are There No African Americans among Pittsburgh's Top Corporate Leaders?

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Someone's Missing from the Fortunate 50 Why Are There No African Americans among Pittsburgh's Top Corporate Leaders?

Article excerpt

I am forced to place pen to paper after reading the Post-Gazette article "Pay Up 12% for the Top 50 Execs" (May 20) to draw attention to a striking phenomenon.

For many years the PG has compiled lists and written articles on the highest-paid executives at publicly traded companies in the Pittsburgh region. While some diversification is represented in these listings -- such as in the number of white women crashing through the "glass ceiling," who nevertheless make up a small minority -- my focus is on the appalling lack of African-American representation on this all-important ranking of local corporate leaders.

The absence of African Americans on this list illustrates a sharp divide between the wealth and influence of other communities versus the greater African-American community. It calls into question the ability of our region to foster a sizable black middle class or to make it possible for large numbers of African Americans to live in and attend high-quality public schools in local neighborhoods with high per-capita incomes, such as Upper St. Clair, Mt. Lebanon, Fox Chapel, Hampton, Pine-Richland and Seneca Valley.

I challenge the PG to expand this "Fortunate 50" list by another 50, 100 or even 150 executives at publicly traded companies and I fear that an African American still might not make the cut.

Truly, this is a shame. To my knowledge, there has been only one African American that ever was a member of this august crowd. When this gentleman retired from his perch at PPG two years ago, not a single other African-American business executive (which is becoming an oxymoron in this region) has appeared on the Fortunate 50.

Of the many Pittsburgh-based African Americans holding senior positions of responsibility within the corporate community, many rank as top executives or managers in areas such as community affairs or community relations/development, corporate foundation, human resources and supplier diversity. These are, for the most part, six-figure-salaried positions, yet they fall short of the level of influence that defines a Pittsburgh business leader.

We must also not forget the all-important chief diversity officer, who, for the most part, has no true internal power to influence corporate policy.

When the CDO position was created in the mid- to late-1990s to advocate for diversity within corporations, CDOs were experienced executives with dedicated staff and independent budgets. …

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