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Southern Company’s Chris Womack Will be the Eighth Black S&P 500 CEO

One could say slow progress is progress. But that shouldn’t be the case in 2023.

In a country where Black folks must work twice as hard just to be considered and have a seat at the table, it isn’t surprising that there will soon be just eight Black Standard and Poor’s (S&P) 500 CEOs in the United States.

Forbes recently reported that once Chris Womack is appointed as the CEO of Southern Company in May, he will be the eighth Black S&P CEO.

Calvin Butler, a Black professional who was also named CEO for Exelon days before Womack’s announcement, was gleeful about Womack’s appointment.

“The day it happened I sent Chris a text and said, ‘I’m proud for you, and I’m happy for us,’” Butler said to Forbes. “Chris is one of those (people) who’s been around the industry a lot longer than me, and he represents opportunity that should have existed a long time ago.”

Below are the eight Black S&P 500 CEOs in the United States and the companies they run or will run soon enough.

Chris Womack

If you look at Womack’s resume, one shouldn’t be surprised by his new opportunity. Womack holds a bachelor’s degree from Western Michigan University as well as a master’s from American University. He also completed the Stanford Executive Program in 2001.

The native of Greenville, Alabama joined the Southern Company, an American gas and electric utility holding company based in Atlanta, in 1988. Womack has held several leadership positions, including executive vice president of external affairs at Georgia Power, as well as senior vice president and senior production officer of Southern Company Generation where he was responsible for coal, gas, and hydro generation for Georgia Power and Savannah Electric.

Butler earned a bachelor’s degree from Bradley University, as well as a Juris Doctor degree from Washington University School of Law in St. Louis; he also has a doctorate of Humane Letters from Morgan State University in 2014.

A native of St. Louis, Butler held senior leadership roles in external affairs and manufacturing with the print, digital, and supply chain solutions company, R.R. Donnelley. Butler joined Excelon, the largest electric parent company in the United States headquartered in Chicago, in 2008, when he worked to become a COO and president and COO. As the CEO, he will now oversee six local electric and natural gas companies, Atlantic City Electric, BGE, ComEd, Delmarva Power, PECO and Pepco.

Lloyd Yates has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Pittsburgh and a master’s in business administration from St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. He also attended the advanced management program at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School and the executive management program at Harvard Business School.

He would go on to become the executive vice president of Regulated Utilities at Duke Energy in which he oversaw Duke Energy’s utility operations in six states, and federal government affairs, among other departments. Yates is now the president and CEO of NiSource, which serves four million natural gas and electric customers across six states: Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Rosalind Brewer is from Detroit, Michigan and went on to complete a Director’s College executive education program at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and Stanford Law School, as well as the Advanced Management Program at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

She then served as President of Global Nonwovens Division for Kimberly-Clark Corporation, which is a global health and hygiene products company, among many other work experiences. Brewer is now the CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance, a global innovator in retail pharmacy. She is one of only two Black women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, and she is the first Black woman to become CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance, group president, COO of Starbucks, and CEO of Sam’s Club.

Marvin Ellison is from Brownsville, Tennessee and earned his business administration degree from the University of Memphis, while also grabbing his MBA from Emory University. Ellison held senior-level operations roles with Home Depot Inc, helping his 35 years of retail leadership and operational experience within Fortune 500 companies.

He is now chairman, president and chief executive officer of Lowe’s Companies, which is a Fortune 50 home improvement company.

Born and raised in Ayer, Massachusetts, René Jones received a bachelor of science in Management Science from Boston College before going on to earn an MBA from the University of Rochester.

Before becoming chairman and CEO of M&T Bank, he was the CFO, which he was responsible for managing the financial actions of the company.

Craig Arnold received his education from California State University San Bernardino where he earned a bachelor’s in psychology and from Pepperdine University where he attained his MBA.

He previously worked for General Electric Company where he was corporate vice president and president, GE Lighting Services Ltd. Arnold is now the chairman and chief executive officer of Eaton, which is a global intelligent power management company.

And Frank Clyburn was educated at Franklin and Marshall College where he received a bachelor's of arts and from Arizona State University where he knocked out an MBA program.

Clyburn would go on to become the president of Primary Care and Women’s Health businesses and market access function. Also, he led the company’s global pharmaceutical franchises before living in Shanghai and Lucerne. He is now the CEO of International Flavors & Fragrances, which is a global leader in value-added ingredients company.


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