The top CEOs of American companies have been overwhelmingly white for decades, according to a new study that looked at the CEOs who have held the top jobs in the United States.
The study, by the Harvard Business School’s Institute of Business and Economics, found that in recent years, white CEOs have held more top-ranking jobs at a median of 10 years, compared to just two years for the CEOs of non-white and Asian-American companies.
The findings, published Monday by the institute’s blog, were based on data from a survey of more than 4,000 CEOs from the past three decades.
A few notable exceptions were the top CEOs at two of the top-performing companies in the economy, the tech industry and pharmaceutical companies, the report found.
In the technology sector, where the share of CEOs who were white rose from 10% to 21%, the white CEOs held the equivalent of a third of the jobs.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, at least 17% of top CEOs in the pharmaceutical industry were white.
While there was some variation in the proportion of white CEOs at the tech sector and the pharmaceuticals, the average percentage of white and Asian CEOs was roughly 10% each, the study found.
For the tech companies, those differences were even more pronounced.
When it comes to non-tech jobs, Asians, Hispanics and blacks hold more than two-thirds of the leadership positions, the survey found.
In the pharmaceutical sector, Asians held just over half of the leading positions.
Overall, the results suggest that the demographics of top-level CEO posts are generally more diverse than those of other jobs.
The percentage of CEOs with Asian, Hispanic and black names has risen sharply over the past 30 years, the researchers found.
While the percentage of African-American and Asian names is about the same today as it was in the late 1980s, those numbers have fallen slightly over the same time period, they said.
Black CEOs are almost twice as likely as white CEOs to hold top jobs, while Asian and Hispanic CEOs are more than twice as common, the authors found.
“As with most companies, this finding underscores the importance of hiring and retaining a diverse group of leaders in order to advance economic growth and job creation,” the report concluded.
Correction: This article originally said that a survey by the Institute of Technology found that there were nearly 20,000 white CEOs.
The actual number is 19,000.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article said that the median age of the CEO of a Fortune 500 company was 75.
In fact, the median was 68.
The article has been updated to reflect that fact.