The Fortune 500 Just Lost Its Second Latina CEO
The already ridiculously low number of women leading Fortune 500 companies just got smaller.
On Sunday, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) announced that its CEO, Geisha Williams, would be stepping down.
The Cuban-born businesswoman made history in 2017 when she became the second Latina to head a Fortune 500 company. While most reports erroneously describe Williams as the first and only Latina to hold the high post, Afro-Panamanian Ursula Burns, who was the CEO of Xerox from 2009 till 2016, was actually the first Latina and the first Black woman to steer a Fortune 500 company.
Still, with Burns leaving the company in 2016 and Williams’ recent departure, there are no Latina, or African-American, women in charge of Fortune 500 companies. Their exists speak to a larger problem of underrepresentation of women in leadership positions. When Williams first stepped in as CEO of PG&E, there were just 32 women heading companies on the Fortune 500 list. In less than two years, that number has decreased by five percent. In October, even longtime PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi left her high-level post.
John Simon, formerly PG&E’s executive vice president and general counsel, will serve as interim CEO. In a statement about the leadership changes, Richard C. Kelly, chair of the corporation’s board, thanked Williams for her “service and tireless commitment” and recognized that “tremendous challenges” that lie ahead.
Since Williams became CEO of PG&E, the company has been troubled with liability for several of California’s devastating wildfires. Investigators have tied the company’s equipment to 17 major fires.
After Williams left, PG&E announced it would also file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
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