A top executive at pharmaceutical powerhouse Merck, Frank Clyburn, has been chosen as CEO at International Flavors & Fragrances Inc.
Bloomberg reported that the president of Merck’s human health division, Clyburn, is slated to start his new role at the food and health-sciences company IFF on Feb. 14. He was previously considered a successor at Merck to Kenneth Frazier, who retired as CEO of the drugmaker last June.
Clyburn’s selection at IFF’ is telling as it will make him among a scarce number of Black corporate leaders in the S&P 500 Index. Also, an executive vice president at Merck, Clyburn, will succeed Andreas Fibig. Based in New York, IFF is a $36 billion company that makes scents, tastes, and ingredients for foods, beverages, health among its products, per Bloomberg.
Observers assert that Black leadership and board diversity all over corporate America remains weak. An ongoing challenge for decades, the number of Blacks in decision-making C-suite roles is still anemic. Companies have been pressed to largely add more opportunities for Black Americans and other minorities after the 2020 murder of George Floyd and subsequent national racial protests.
“Clyburn’s appointment is another signal that the environment for Black executives is getting stronger as more opportunities are available,” said Michael Hyter, CEO of The Executive Leadership Council (ELC), Bloomberg reported. The ELC is regarded as the pre-eminent global organization focused on developing Black corporate C-suite and board leaders.
Clyburn was already running 90% of Merck’s business and would have been a prime candidate for CEO, regardless of race, Hyter told Bloomberg. Some growth has been made for Black executives. Walgreens Boots Alliance named Roz Brewer CEO of the pharmacy chain last January. TIAA named Thasunda Brown Duckett president and CEO last February. And Qurate Retail Inc., whose brands include home shopping networks QVC and HSN, appointed David Rawlinson as its president and CEO effective last October.
“Any news of a Black CEO being appointed to the S&P is progress. That’s a victory,” Hyter told Bloomberg. “But there’s still too few of them.”