Kiley Lambert, Maya Alexander
February 28, 2023
Dr. Wayne A.I. Frederick, president of Howard University, also serves on the boards of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Humana.
With only six Black CEOs at Fortune 500 companies, he said the issue starts with lack of diverse talent pipeline development, “but everywhere along the system there’s a problem.”
Howard has created student career development deals with Google and Amazon Studios to go beyond what he called the “transactional” nature of many diversity recruiting efforts, and Howard recently became the first HBCU to be granted a Department of Defense research center affiliation.
Dr. Wayne A.I. Frederick is the 17th president of Howard University, one of 107 historically Black colleges and universities in the U.S., serving some 11,000 students across its undergraduate, graduate, and professional student programs. Frederick is the distinguished Charles R. Drew Professor of Surgery at the Howard University College of Medicine. He is also a practicing cancer surgeon at Howard University Hospital, where he continues to see patients and perform surgeries.
Frederick — who currently serves on the boards of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Humana — recently spoke with CNBC ahead of the Equity and Opportunity Forum on April 4. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
CNBC: As of this interview, there are only 6 Black CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, which is a record. And even below the C-level, the majority of executive corporate America continues to be overwhelmingly white and male. Do you see this as a pipeline issue? A recruitment issue? Something more systemic?
Frederick: I see the dearth of Black CEOs as an ecosystem issue. I think every aspect of the ecosystem needs to be improved — the pipeline, the opportunities once you get into the job arena, and then the management. So, the boards need to be more reflective of the people that we want to see coming from diverse talent in the C-suite. And the C-suite, even the executive leadership, we focus a lot on the Black CEOs, but the reality is the people who could elevate to those positions, there is a dearth of them. So that opportunity to elevate isn’t there and I think that’s problematic. And obviously, it starts with the pipeline, but everywhere along the system there’s a problem.