When he takes the helm of industrial products manufacturer Eaton Corp. next year, Craig Arnold will join just a handful of black CEOs of large manufacturing companies.
At last count, there were three black Fortune 500 CEOs. Ursula Burns of Xerox Corporation and Kenneth C. Frazier of Merck & Co. lead manufacturing companies. Kenneth I. Chenault is the CEO of American Express.
According to 2014 data from the Minority Business Development Agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, only about 2.8% of U.S. manufacturing firms were black-owned, while according to the latest Census figures, 13.2% of the U.S. population is black.
"We're very proud of him," Ronald C. Parker, president and CEO of the Executive Leadership Council, said of Arnold. "He's got some great experience from General Electric, one of our partner companies."
ELC is an organization of black CEOs, board members and senior executives at Fortune 500 companies and equivalents whose goal is to develop global black leaders.
Parker said that ELC has been stepping up its efforts to develop more black leaders in STEM industries. ELC members recently met with Google at its Mountainview, Calif., headquarters to discuss a partnership between tech firms and historically black colleges and universities. The organization's Executive Leadership Foundation offers scholarships for promising black students in STEM fields through its Business Case Competition.
Arnold, who began his career at GE, is currently Eaton’s vice chairman and chief operating officer for its Industrial Sector. He is responsible for Eaton’s hydraulics, aerospace, filtration, truck, automotive and general products businesses, according to his company bio. Previously, he was chief executive officer of the company’s Fluid Power Group.
The Wall Street Journal named Arnold to its Hot Prospects: 12 Coveted Executives list in 2011, noting that Arnold “has done much of the heavy lifting as [Eaton] expands into new product areas and countries.”
Arnold joined Eaton in 2000 from GE, where he was corporate vice president and then president of GE Lighting Services Ltd. He joined GE in 1999 and was responsible for GE’s e-commerce business in Europe. He also served as senior management account executive for all GE businesses in the United Kingdom.
He began his career at GE in 1983, with a series of positions of increasing responsibility in sales, marketing, and product management. He received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from California State University, San Bernardino, and a master’s degree in business administration from Pepperdine University.
Arnold and current Eaton CEO Sandy Cutler were not available for comment at press time.
Eaton was #163 on the Fortune 500 list in 2012, the last year it was eligible because it moved its incorporation from the United States to Ireland.