There have been only 15 black CEOs in the history of the Fortune 500, of whom five are successful black men choose to remain single in the role. Why race and culture matter in the c-suite. It was a dream job, the type of assignment that could make or break the career of an ambitious executive with an eye toward the top. 60 billion in annual revenue.
The year was 1992, and Tyson, then in his early thirties, had been named administrator of one of Kaiser’s newest hospitals, in Santa Rosa, Calif. His physician partner, an elderly white gentleman named Dr. Richard Stein, was less excited by the news. And it went downhill from there. The two men were constantly at odds, unable to collaborate, with most conversations ending in angry standoffs.
It was the most difficult relationship I have ever had. One day Stein invited Tyson for a walk. I have never worked with a black man like this. He meant as a peer. Stein, it seems, didn’t know what to say, how to act, what to expect. Tyson saw it for the opening it was.
It was at that moment I realized that the majority of the population doesn’t have any sort of mental road map for how to relate to and work with someone different from themselves. Tyson credits Stein with the courage to open up about race. It changed the trajectory of their relationship and their work together, helping Tyson fine-tune a philosophy of inclusion that he believes can inspire empathy and courage within the organization he now runs—one that employs 180,000 people in eight states and the District of Columbia. Let us begin, then, with one cold, hard-numbered truth: For much of corporate America, racial diversity continues to be at best a challenge—and at worst a flat-out fiction—particularly in the executive ranks. Nor is it much better outside the corner office. According to a corporate diversity survey released last June by the office of Sen. Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, black men and women account for a mere 4.