2020 has been a cataclysmic year on all fronts. Since January, the world has been reeling in the face of a virus that has challenged how society functions on every level. As the death toll continued to rise, ‘business as usual’ became a wistful mantra of the past and the economy began to falter. On May 25th, the abhorrent death of George Floyd sparked protests across the country, throwing into sharp relief the reality of being a minority in America. Amidst this turbulent, politically charged atmosphere, minority group CEOs at the helm of world-leading companies have spearheaded the United States’ Covid-19 response, by swiftly delivering innovative solutions for our frontline workers, elevating diverse voices, and providing hope and effective action across the board. Here is our list of Top Minority Group American CEOs who contributed to the fight against COVID-19.
Satya Nadella is one of America’s best-known and most respected CEOs, leading global tech giant Microsoft. Born and raised in India, Nadella immigrated to the US to complete his Master’s, before working his way up through the tech behemoth, securing the top seat in which he has remained since 2014. Since the lockdown, Microsoft Teams has been hugely important globally as people transitioned to working from home. However, Nadella has gone far beyond scaling up existing operations. Microsoft has produced a cloud suite specifically for the healthcare sector, as well as a health bot that is being used for coronavirus triage, reducing strain on fatigued hospital staff.
While software development is essential to maintain a productive workforce during the pandemic, moving forwards, it is vaccine development that hopes to deliver the promise of a more stable future. Kenneth Frazier, one of just four black CEOs running Fortune 500 companies, is leading the charge at pharmaceutical giant Merck. The company has adopted a monumental, multifaceted approach in the race to produce a safe, effective, and durable vaccine: they are researching the molecular mechanisms of the virus, collaborating with partners to streamline clinical trial processes, and running two vaccine development programs. Alongside this, Merck has donated 800,000 surgical face masks to the states of New York and New Jersey. As the first black CEO to run a major pharmaceutical company, Frazier has used his voice to promote meaningful conversation and action to further diversity in the workplace, which will have far-reaching impacts beyond the pandemic.
While healthcare and IT sectors have been able to ramp up their existing operations, companies in other industries have had to reconfigure their entire approach in response to the pandemic. CEO Michael Duggal, of Duggal Visual Solutions, transformed his business to become the PPE supplier of choice for New York’s frontline workers. Established in 1963 by his father, Baldev Duggal, who arrived in America on a one-way ticket from India with just $200 in his pocket, the company has become a world leader in print and digital innovations, producing visually astounding installations and merchandising for world-renowned brands. Within a week of lockdown, CEO Michael Duggal had transformed his manufacturing operations from producing graphic displays to producing parts for face shields and protective clothing. Michael quickly turned his now idle event space, The Duggal Greenhouse, into a highly effective, socially distanced PPE production line, employing hundreds of New Yorkers. This quick thinking transformation has allowed Duggal Visual Solutions to serve its community, our first responders, and its staff by producing almost two million face shields to date, providing desperately needed PPEs to protect our invaluable frontline workers.
Duggal has not stopped there. They are also helping their customers adapt to the so-called ’new normal’ by producing office and store partitions, sanitizer stations, social distancing floor graphics and signage, along with digital kiosks that screen temperatures for all entering a location.
As an inherently creative company, Duggal utilized their flexibility and have played a hugely significant role in America’s Covid-19 response. As the pandemic has progressed, it is still far from business as usual for Duggal, the company continues to produce PPE as required, while also serving the needs of their long-term customer base who are preparing for post-lockdown reopening. As an inherently creative company, Duggal leveraged their flexibility and have played a hugely significant role in America’s Covid-19 response.
Alongside medical pressures and logistical challenges, the mental toll of Covid-19 has proved a huge burden. Several companies have worked to alleviate this, developing apps and initiatives which provide a human connection in an increasingly socially distanced society. One such initiative has been established by American Association of Retired Persons’ CEO, Jo Ann Jenkins. Since March the AARP have provided daily updates in both English and Spanish on the spread of the virus and how the over-50-year-olds can best protect themselves. In addition, they are hosting weekly tele-townhalls, where members can call in and pose questions to some of the country’s leading coronavirus experts.
Businesses are assessing how they can contribute externally, as well as adapting internally, to drive a strong, economic resurgence in the wake of Covid-19. Cara Sabin, the newly appointed CEO of Sundial Brands, beloved since its inception for meeting the beauty needs of consumers of color, has committed $1 million to help women of color keep their businesses operating during the pandemic. They are offering a relief fund for Black-owned businesses, in addition to providing educational support and further funding for those looking to create and implement an effective Covid-19 business recovery plan.
Driving American economic recovery and achieving longstanding workplace diversity goals are two of the most pressing issues facing CEOs in 2020. Minority business leaders are succeeding on both fronts, right now, working tirelessly to adapt business models, galvanize communities and empower other entrepreneurs to withstand this crisis. The pandemic has witnessed countless examples of unprecedented resilience, adaptability, and innovation from minority CEOs, establishing a firm foundation from which America can propel its economy into a successful post-Covid-19 future.