2021 MCCA Fortune 1000 GC Survey
MCCA is proud to present the 21st edition of our annual General Counsel Survey where we track and analyze the representation of women and historically underrepresented racial/ethnic General Counsel (GCs) in the Fortune 1000. Consistent with previous editions of this report, underrepresented racial/ethnic group is defined as African American/Black, Asian American/Pacific Islander, Hispanic/Latinx, Native American/Indigenous, and Multiracial.
The year 2020 was marked by substantial change. It showed the pliability of our nation as we battled a raging pandemic, the courage of many to stand up in the face of systemic racism, and the success of women and racial and ethnic underrepresented populations on the national stage. Despite the highs and lows of 2020, we saw substantially less movement within the Fortune 1000 general counsels and in some areas a net loss in representation.
In the face of growing calls for racial and social equity and pledges to address systemic racism, racially and ethnically underrepresented general counsels fell by 1.71% in the Fortune 1000. The aggregate of underrepresented populations increased by 1.6%, however, this is mainly driven by the white female population as seen in previous years.
For racially and ethnically underrepresented populations to gain traction, there must be change. While advocacy is an integral way to catalyst these changes, it must be paired with something more basic: opportunity. In 2020 we saw drastically fewer General Counsel openings than the prior year – just 139 compared to the 216 in 2019. “Opportunity for Change” is defined in this report as: (1) there was a change in General Counsel from the subsequent year and (2) the General Counsel in question was not already the predefined race or ethnicity where change is trying to be deduced. An example of this is if a White Male GC retired in 2020 and an Asian American/Pacific Islander Female GC was named as his successor. This event qualifies as an opportunity for change in two scenarios; (1) from White to a racial or ethnic underrepresented population, and (2) from male to female.
Despite having the least opportunities to change, White GCs and Male GCs saw the highest degree of change. As seen in previous editions of this report, racially and ethnically underrepresented populations continue to lag all other demographic groups. A silver lining in this analysis comes from the opportunities filled by racially and ethnically underrepresented groups relative to last year. Despite there being only a 16.10% change this year, that is an increase from the 14% seen in 2019.
The resolve of those fighting towards equality has not waivered–and in fact, has grown stronger in the face of adversity. It is crucial to sustaining this momentum moving forward. Wanji Walcott, Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer at Discover Financial Services, and MCCA Board Chair, noted that “the key is sustaining focus [and creating] sustainable models to carry the focus forward.” The push for greater representation cannot stop until Fortune 1000 GCs, and corporate America as a whole, reflect the diversity of our communities–and of our country.
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