Over the last year, there\u2019ve been a lot of firsts in the Fortune 500: the first openly lesbian CEO, the first Latina CEO, and the first Black woman CEO of an NBA franchise. But there have been a lot of good-byes, too, as Indra Nooyi of Pepsi, Denise Morrison of\u00a0Campbell Soup Company, Margo Georgiadis of Mattel, and Irene Rosenfeld of Mondelez have all left the top spot at their respective companies and have been replaced by men. In fact, according to data compiled by Catalyst, since 2009,\u00a0only three female CEOs\u00a0were followed by another woman.\nThere are now only 22 women CEOs in the\u00a0Fortune\u00a0500 index. Not one is black.\n[ Also read: 4 approaches to diversity and inclusion leadership. | Get the latest career insights: Sign up for our newsletters ]\nIt starts from the very first leadership level, according to the 2017 Women in the Workplace study from McKinsey and Sheryl Sandberg\u2019s LeanIn.org: \u201cWomen hired in as individual contributors are 18 percent less likely to be promoted into management than their male peers,\u201d and it\u2019s all downhill from there, especially for women of color, the survey shows. Part of the issue is that the pipeline for women to leadership positions is little more than a trickle.\nIn an interview\u00a0with\u00a0The New York Times DealBook\u00a0column after her resignation, Pepsi\u2019s Nooyi acknowledged the women\u2019s leadership pipeline issue, saying, \u201cI would have loved for the board to have had a woman to pick from. But at the end of the day, the board selects the CEO, and we just didn\u2019t have any women who were ready for the job.\u201d\nObstacles women face in becoming executives\nSome of the obstacles women face on the way up the corporate ladder include being poached earlier in their careers to lead smaller firms. That means they\u2019re less likely to stay in larger companies and to take on assignments that could prepare them to run a global enterprise \u2014 add in the wage gap, lack of sponsorship and mentorship, the burden of parenting, and other societally enforced gender-role expectations, and the picture becomes even more grim. These challenges are amplified for women of color in very real ways, as recent data from Catalyst shows. Recent research from cloud compensation services provider PayScale on the racial wage gap in tech illustrates how the double-whammy of racism and pay inequality can serve to keep women of color out of the ranks of leadership.\n\u201cThere\u2019s a disparity of opportunity for people of color in tech. They\u2019re not only underrepresented; they\u2019re being paid less, as well,\u201d says Katie Bardaro, vice president of data analytics, PayScale. \u201cThat exists whether we look at the uncontrolled or the controlled wage gap, and that\u2019s a disturbing trend. Even as the number of black and Hispanic students getting STEM degrees is increasing, representation isn\u2019t. If they can\u2019t get through the door despite having the credentials, it\u2019ll be impossible for them to gain the experience they need to move up the ranks.\u201d\nThe issue is further exacerbated by the tendency of cis, straight, white men to underestimate just how prevalent and how harmful discrimination and inequality is in the modern workplace, the Women in the Workplace research shows.\nBefore we can achieve a more equitable workplace and see full representation all the way to the C-suite, we have to address the very real racism and sexism that exist throughout society. Focusing on pay equity, career development, parental leave, mentorship, healthcare, sponsorship, child care \u2014 these are not separate issues; they all intertwine. While we\u2019ve made significant progress toward identifying the issues that hold back women and people of color, there\u2019s so much that still can be done.