With the recent resignation of Rosalind Brewer as Walgreens CEO, Thasunda Brown Duckett is now the only Black woman leading a Fortune 500 Company. McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace Report demonstrates that for every 100 men promoted, every 85 women were promoted, with only 58 black women getting a chance to make their way to top management.
As women take up more executive positions, leading more than 10% of Fortune 500 companies, the scarcity of Black women in top positions has never stood out more. Duckett is the fourth Black woman in history to serve as a Fortune 500 CEO, and the second Black woman CEO to head a Fortune 500 company. At the moment, she is the only Black woman leading a Fortune 500 company.
A self-described daddy’s girl, Duckett commends her modest introduction to life as the reason for her success. Her father, a truck driver and warehouse employee worked hard to provide for his family but he was unable to adequately save for retirement. Duckett’s father coached her in the importance of hard work, tenacity and the power of faith. Today, she runs the Otis and Rosie Brown Foundation as a tribute to her parents.
After high school, Duckett joined the University of Houston where she graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance and Marketing. She later attended Baylor University, receiving her Master of Business Administration in 2001. It was here that Duckett began thinking about financial insecurity and how Black Americans can transfer resources to the next generation.
She began her finance career at Fannie Mae, leading strategies intended to increase homeownership rates among Black and Hispanic Americans. She served as the Senior Vice President of Emerging Markets and Affordable Lending at Chase Consumer Banking and 12 years later, as CEO at JPMorgan Chase. In her four-year tenure as CEO of Chase, Duckett managed over 50,000 employees, about 5,000 branches and $600 billion in deposits. She initiated the bank’s five-year plan to establish 400 branches in virgin markets across the U.S.
On 1st May 2021, Thasunda Brown Duckett officially became the president and CEO of The Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America-College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA), a Fortune 100 Financial services organization. TIAA provides retirement and financial services for academic, research, medical and governmental workers. The premier nonprofit retirement market provider, TIAA paid more than $4.2 billion to retirees in 2021 and has about $1.4 trillion in assets under management. Duckett is the first female President of TIAA.
Within two years, Duckett’s impact on TIAA has already been immensely felt. She has worked to increase the visibility of the organization, taking part in hundreds of internal and external events to talk about the importance of secure retirement income, leadership, and valuable investing. TIAA is among the U.S. insurance companies to get the highest possible rating from leading insurance company rating agencies. In 2022, TIAA had a record-high operating margin, all revenue categories came in higher than projected, with assets under management reaching $1.6 trillion. Additionally, the firm’s investing arm-Nuveen- recorded increases in operating margin, revenues, return on capital, net flows, and dividends paid out to TIAA members.
Even as Duckett sits at the top of the ladder, she remembers her humble background. Duckett is committed to helping racial minority communities close gaps in wealth creation, educational outcomes and career success. An enduring proponent of diversity, equity, and inclusion, she increased TIAA’s commitment to the Be the Change platform launched in 2020; to fight systemic racism, and promote equitable opportunities and inclusive representation throughout the company’s supply chain, employees, and investments. As a result, TIAA has won numerous awards for corporate inclusion and diversity.
Although it is lonely at the top, Thasunda Brown Duckett is diligently working to create room for more Black women. An inspiration to many, leading a Fortune 500 Company will hopefully no longer be a companionless zone.