Indian heritage shaping American corporate world is “impressive,” says Musk

The long list of American companies currently led by CEOs of Indian origin is going viral, with even Elon Musk admitting that it’s “impressive.”

Some of the largest tech companies in the US have one thing in common. Alphabet (Google and Youtube), Microsoft, Adobe, IBM, Palo Alto Networks, Micron Technology, Cognizant, Vimeo, and many others are all led by CEOs of Indian origins.

This post, by the World of Statistics, gained traction on Twitter, with millions of views and tens of thousands of reposts. Even Elon Musk, owner of X (Twitter) and the CEO of Tesla, responded with “impressive.”

The trend is supported by the fact that Indian Americans are the highest-earning ethnic group in the US, a country that is growing increasingly reliant on Indian IT services exports.

Asian Americans are the only “historically underrepresented group” that has more top positions among the top-level S&P 500 managers than the proportion in the population would suggest.

Yet, the complete diversity landscape in the US still seems to be lacking with other ethnic or racial groups underrepresented, Spencer Stuart's report suggests.

Two out of ten top CEOs are Indian

Tech dominates the largest traded American companies as represented by the Standard and Poor's 500 index listings. Amongst the ten largest companies, non-Indian CEOs lead 8 of them: Apple, NVidia, Meta Platforms, Berkshire Hathaway, Tesla, UnitedHealth Group, and ExxonMobil.

The American-born CEOs of these companies include Tim Cook (Apple), Mark Zuckerberg (Meta), Warren Buffet (Berkshire), Andy Jassy (Amazon) and Darren Woods (Exxon).

Nvidia’s CEO Jensen Huang is a Taiwanese-born American, Musk was born in South Africa, and Andrew Witty (UnitedHealth) is British. Indian-Americans are Satya Nadella (Microsoft) and Sundar Pichai (Alphabet).

Amongst 682 CEOs of the largest American companies, 73 belonged to ethnically and racially diverse groups in 2022, with 45 being Asian, a report by Crist|Kolder Associates shows.

CEO statistics
Image by Crist|Kolder Associates

Indian Americans earn the most

Many immigrants come to the US via the H-1B visa program that favors individuals with advanced degrees and specialized skills, and Indian immigrants often come with strong educational backgrounds. Indian employees are valued for their work ethic and values, such as dedication, discipline, and perseverance.

Indians are the highest earners in the US amongst all groups, with an average median household income of $141,906. That is followed by Pakistani, Iranian, South African Lebanese, and European families, earning $91,000-$101,000.

On average, median household income in 2021 was $69,021, the United States Census Bureau’s data shows.

India has also become a global powerhouse in terms of IT services exports, and some of the largest tech companies, measured by headcount, reside in India.

As already reported by Cybernews, the US is becoming increasingly reliant on IT services offered by such Indian companies as Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys, HCL Technologies, and others. Those three Indian IT services companies alone are comparable to a small nation, with headcounts of more than 600,000, almost 350,000, and 225,000, respectively. Also, those companies may serve as a platform in India to jumpstart a career in IT.

White males are now less likely to get top job

In 2022, amongst the S&P500 companies, 72% of newly appointed top-level managers were from “historically underrepresented groups,” the Spencer Stuart report reveals, leaving the remaining 28% positions for a group that is not defined, probably consisting of overrepresented white male Americans.

S&P 500 boards added 395 new independent directors during the 2022 proxy season. 46% of them belonged to Black, African, Asian, Hispanic, Latino, Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, or multiracial Americans. Less than 1% disclosed as LGBTQ+. Amongst all directors, 46% were women. In combination, “historically underrepresented groups” accounted account for 72% of all new directors.

In 2021, the proportions were the same, or 72% of new directors came from “historically underrepresented groups,” when in total 456 new directors were added.

Going back to 2017, “underrepresented” Americans got 64% of top-level managerial positions.

However, amongst all acting S&P 500 directors, “historically underrepresented groups” still rake in less than half, or 46%, as “continued low boardroom turnover remains a persistent impediment to meaningful year-over-year change”.

The report quotes US Census Bureau statistics, showing that various racial/ethnic groups represented 42% of the US population, while the representation among S&P 500 directors was 22%. Female managers represent 32% of all directors.

management stats
Image by Spencer Stuart.

“Diversity in board leadership lags board diversity overall. Just 9% of S&P 500 independent board chairs and 10% of lead directors are from historically underrepresented racial or ethnic groups,” the report writes.

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