50 Amazing African-American Women In Business, Politics and Philanthropy
We here at The Jane Dough get so much joy from covering women who are at the top of their respective fields. From our 50 Women of 2012 to our 30 Female Entrepreneurs To Watch In 2013, we love celebrating the achievements of these hard-working, dedicated, passionate professionals. This week in honor of Black History Month we decided to highlight 50 African-American women who are accomplishing extraordinary things in the public, private and non-profit sectors. Check out the gallery and prepare to feel a little bit inadequate when you get a load of some of these resumés.
Fatimah Moody comes from a
family of entrepreneurs — her parents owned a restaurant in Queens when she was growing up, and created her management consulting firm LinkVisum in 2007. Despite the bad economic timing she led the company through a period of tremendous growth, going from under $1 million in revenue in 2008 to $10 million in 2010. She's pretty amazing, but she says her hero is her husband: "We are in the business together, and he is the backbone of the entire operation." Cute!
It might seem difficult to carve out your own identity if you're known as "George Lucas's girlfriend," but Mellody Hobson has had no trouble doing so. The Princeton grad is a
Senior Vice President and Director of Marketing for Ariel Investments LLC, which has become "one of the largest African American-owned money management and mutual fund companies in the United States" (and where she also started as an intern! We're beginning to see a pattern here). She and Lucas also just recently became engaged. What a power couple!
Ursula Burns serves as
Madam Chairman and CEO for Xerox, making her the first African-American female CEO of a Fortune 500 company, as well as the first woman to succeed another female CEO of a Fortune 500 company. All that is great, but we really like how she started at the company — as a summer intern in 1980. Keep that in mind this summer, prospective interns!
We highlighted Kimberly Bryant in our 2012
"Women of the Year" post, but she's so cool we had to put her on this list too. This weekend Bryant's organization Black Girls Code will be having its first workshop in Memphis, where "during the day-long event girls, ages 10-17, will learn how to build their own web page...The workshop sold out so quickly ‘Black Girl’s Code’ is already planning to hold an identical one in the near future." Awesome.
How many women do you know working in the mining industry? How many women do you know who are
CEOs in the mining industry? Nonkululeko Nyembezi-Heita is both, heading up Arcelor Mittal South Africa, a steel mining company based in her home country. Though 2012 has been a tough year for steel miners, as demand has gone down, Arcelor Mittal announced they would be moving forward with iron-ore exploration in 2013.
6.Rosalind G. Brewer
Rosalind G. Brewer was made the
CEO and President of Sam's Club in early 2012, making her both the first woman and the first African American to be made a chief officer in the company. Her rise through the ranks is also notable — she started with the company just a few years earlier in 2006 as a company scientist and rose through the executive ranks. Pretty awesome.
7.Shelia C. Johnson
Sheila C. Johnson is the very definition of a mogul: not only is she the
CEO of Salamander Hospitality, a luxury properties company she founded in 2005, but she is the first African-American woman to have a stake in three professional sports teams — the Washington Mystics, Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals. On top of all that she's a founding partner of BET.
Angela Benton is amazing because she is dedicating herself to making sure that women and minorities have access to the growing number of career options in technology and new media. She's the
founder and CEO of NewMe Accelerator, whose mission is to "accelerate, educate, and empower underrepresented tech talent around the world," and she recently became the youngest Hall of Fame inductee of the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council (she's only 31!).
Danita King, founder and CEO of PR Noir (which rhymes so delightfully I haven't been able to stop repeating it for the past ten minutes). She
got her start working for Joseph Abboud and Coach before opening her own firm in 2007. Her clients have included "Bill Blass, Simmons Jewelry Company (Russell Simmons), Disney, August Silk, Bongo, VH1 and Target." Her company's focus unique is on creating "equal footing and relationships with both mainstream and multi-ethnic media."
10.Kim D. Saunders
Kim D. Saunders is almost certainly smarter than you or I. Here's a selection from her
Forbes profile: "Ms. Saunders is a member of the Board of Directors of the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce, and is a member of the Board of Directors of the United Way of the Greater Triangle and the NC Museum of Art Foundation. She was recently appointed to serve as a member of the Minority Bank Council of the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA), and the Community Depository Institution Advisory Council (CDIAC) of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. She was appointed by Virginia (“VA”) Governor Kaine to the Virginia Port Authority Board; and by VA Governor Warner to the Virginia Fair Housing Board." I feel like I need a nap after reading all of that, and that's just her work in addition to being CEO of M&F Bancorp, Inc.
11.D. Michelle Flowers Welch
D. Michelle Flowers Welch is the founder of
Flowers Communications Group, a PR firm that has been in business for 21 years and boasted clients from MillerCoors to McDonald's. Welch totally has the start-up bug and handed control of the company to its president in 2011 so that she could launch Welch Consulting, a sports marketing firm. She recently won a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Publicity Club of Chicago.
12.Janice Bryant Howroyd
Janice Bryant Howroyd is the founder and CEO of
Act+1 Group. She's the first African-American woman to own a billion dollar company. Act + 1 was founded in 1978 and has grown (even through the recession, we might add) to become the largest female minority-owned employment agency in the entire country, serving huge corporations like AT&T and Merck.
Suzanne Shank is so, so smart — her original career dream was to be an engineer, but she ended up founding and heading up a municipal bonds specialist company that, among many other transactions, has overseen over $3 billion in deals for the Detroit Water Board.
That's not all — "in 2006 Black Enterprise Magazine named Shank one of the “50 Most Powerful Black Women in Business” and one of the “75 Most Influential Blacks on Wall Street.” Based in Detroit, she has established an internship program there — the Detroit Summer Finance Institute — opening careers in high finance to underprivileged city students.
Staying close if you're one half of an ambitious, busy couple is tough — that's where Kahnoodle.com comes in. The site
bills itself as "the first mobile productivity tool for couples that provides a “relationship dashboard” which visually tracks how well each person is meeting the others’ needs and allows couples to set goals to improve/maintain their overall relationship.” Founder Zuhairah Scott also wrote a very smart Op Ed called "The False Choice Between Babies and Start-Ups" for Forbes in 2011.
15.Arva R. Rice
Arva Rice is a non-profit goddess — after 15 years in the field she was appointed president and CEO of the New York Urban League in 2009. She was hired after
serving as the "Executive Director of Project Enterprise, an organization that provides business loans, technical assistance and peer support to New York City entrepreneurs who lack adequate access to business financing. During her tenure the agency doubled board giving and its revolving loan fund, as well as developed an individual giving campaign, adding high impact funders such as Robin Hood, Tiger and eBay Foundations."
Darline Jean emigrated to Brooklyn from Haiti when she was 7 years old. After going to college and graduate school in New York, she joined the
About Group in 2003 and worked her way up to President and CEO. Her success is a reminder of the advantages to sticking with one company: "Knowing the company in and out minimizes the learning curve and gives me that edge. It allows me to focus on the strategic direction of the business," she says.
Helene Gayle is doing extraordinary work as the
president and CEO of CARE USA, a humanitarian organization with a staff of 10,000 and poverty fighting programs in place in 84 different countries. Before heading CARE USA, Gayle worked for the CDC in their efforts to prevent and fight the spread of HIV and AIDS. She also worked for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in a similar capacity. Gayle also serves n the President's Commission on White House Fellowships as well as the U.S. Department of State's Foreign Affairs Policy Board.
Janice Adams is an extremely successful entrepreneur and bona fide
war hero: "After 23 years of service in the Air force, Janice Adams went into the consulting business and in 2003 founded her own company, JMA Solutions, which provides financial management, IT service, and systems and concept engineering to the federal government. The service-disabled vet credits her military experience with her management skills." JMA Solutions has seen 2,546% growth in three years — I'd say she's doing pretty well.
Joyce Banda became the
president of Malawi after the untimely death of President Bingu wa Mutharika. Rather than bow to pressure to have Mutharika's younger brother succeed him as president, Banda broke with her party and founded the People's Party, going on to become an advocate for women's rights and a critic of Malawian laws that criminalized homosexuality. Her progressiveness and steadfastness in the face of established opposition set her apart.
Ugh, Selena Cuffe, a woman after my own heart. Cuffe's
Heritage Link Brands has enabled South African vintners to expand their market beyond their country's borders, as well as being instrumental in striking deals with airlines to serve South African wine on flights. One particular brand, One World, became the first fair trade wine of its kind to be served on American Airlines. Cheers!
21.Janet A. Simmons
Janet A. Simmons is the military expert and super-spy that
hit TV shows are made of: Her specialized training and skills in many facets of military intelligence has led to many honors, including the Presidential Service Badge. She has commanded more than 3,500 soldiers and Army civilians and was a senior intelligence officer for a White House drug official. Since June 2011, Simmons has served as president of Global Resource Solutions, Inc. (GRS), a service-disabled veteran and minority-owned management consulting company.
Terica Kindred has done business on
five different continents. Meanwhile, I don't think I've even eaten a meal on more than two. In addition to her business commitments Kindred is also a community leader, she also serves as the Executive Director for Plan 4 Success, "a California based non-profit that prepares undergraduate minority students for successful post-baccalaureate careers through innovative and comprehensive coaching, internship placements, strategic planning, and career inventories. She also works with corporations to enhance their diversity initiatives to attract today’s top minority students."
Tynicka Battle is the founder and CEO of ThinkTank Digital, and she has an absolutely charming bio on the
company site: I’ve lead digital marketing campaigns for Motorola, Pepsi, the US Census and Lady Gaga to name a few. Master architect of positive user experiences…because I said so. Wife. Mom. Daughter. Sister. Auntie. Busy. Grateful. When given an opportunity, deliver excellence!" Yes ma'am!
Wanda Felton is an
Obama appointee to the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank), where she served as the first vice president of the board of directors. She served from May 8th 2011 through January 20th 2013. Felton's philosophy as an appointee was this: "Creating good-paying American jobs and promoting the competitiveness of U.S. companies overseas are imperatives in the current economy."
Amy Ellis-Simon is another
intern-turned-corporate titan, coming to Merrill Lynch while she was in college in 1993 and serving now as the Global Head of Specialist Sales and Americas Head of Corporate Access, Bank of America Merrill Lynch. She hasn't forgotten her humble start at the company — Traders Magazine recently named her "Mentor Of The Year," citing her commitment to honesty and candidness between mentors and junior finance professionals.
Do you have packages to ship? Cathy Ross's company has probably helped you out a time or two. She serves as the
Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Federal Express Corporation, a subsidiary of a small company you may or may not have heard of called FedEx. She was promoted in 2010 from her role as the company's Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, which she had held since 2004.
27.Deborah C. Wright
this is cool — Deborah C. Wright is the President and CEO of Carver Bancorp, the largest publicly traded African-American-owned bank in the country, with locations in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens. A New Yorker through and through, Wright's previous gigs included serving as President and CEO of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, Commissioner of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, member of the New York City Housing Authority Board, and appointee to the City Planning Commission.
Debra Sandler probably has the best business cards out of everyone else on this list. She's the
President of Mars Chocolate North America (...what if her cards were edible???), a role she was promoted to in April 2012. Before that she was VP of Marketing for Johnson & Johnson, overseeing the launch of Splenda. Sandler is literally responsible for making the world a sweeter place. We love that!
Diane T. Ashley is in charge of changing the Federal Reserve Bank of New York from the inside out. As its
Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer, she's the "director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, which manages the Office of Minority and Woman Inclusion (OMWI) established in January 2011 as part of the Dodd-Frank Act. The Office of Diversity and Inclusion is also responsible for putting the Bank’s commitment to diversity into visible action."
Edith Cooper originally had plans of opening her own boutique in New York City, but she had to set those aside in favor of a partnership at Goldman Sachs. I know, right? Her career trajectory was
this: "A job offer from Bankers Trust brought Cooper back to New York and kept her on the trading desk. From Bankers, she moved to Goldman Sachs, where she was brought in to help lead the firm's booming energy client business. She was soon dispatched to London, with her family, as co-head of the firm's entire commodities business in Europe and Asia. Now, Cooper has primary responsibility for relationships with many of the firm's most important hedge fund clients." Oh, and she did all that while raising three kids. Not too shabby.
Gwendolyn Smith Iloani is no stranger to handling large sums of money. As the
President and CEO of Smith Wiley Company, she oversees the company's investment and portfolio management activity. Prior to Smith Wiley Smith Iloani worked for Aetna, directing over $4 billion in investments for the company. And I get nervous if I carry around more than $20 in cash.
Gwendolyn Sykes used to be the
Chief Financial Officer for NASA, where she did a tremendous amount of work cleaning up the books. For instance, "the small issue of a $1.73 billion discrepancy between the NASA books and the Treasury Department’s accounting, a difference no one at NASA could figure out." Oh, NASA. She left her post to become the Chief Financial Officer for Yale, whose books are probably in better shape. Her focus now is making sure that the university's $22 billion endowment is put to use educating current and future attendees for decades to come.
33.Ingrid Saunders Jones
Ingrid Saunders Jones heads up the
Coca Cola Global Foundation, the corporate giant's community outreach arm. "As foundation chair, Jones oversees the granting of over $200 million annually. The foundation funds programs in the United States, Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa."
Jacqueline Smith is a
global vice president for IBM who "didn’t major in computer science, didn’t do assembler language programming for mainframes, and didn’t sell computers to major corporations." Instead, Woods made a name for herself by focusing on the business side of technology. It worked — now her focus is ensuring that "IBM customers understand the value of integrated solutions...the value of IBM’s integrated cloud computing stack; the value IBM brings to market with industry-specific business analytics solutions that have been tuned to exploit IBM systems and storage technologies; and the messaging that surrounds IBM’s new push into Technical Computing (formerly High-Performance Computing [HPC]).
Kimberly Davis is another example of a hugely successful corporate officer
who helps her company give back: as the Managing Director of Global Philanthropy, President of the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, and a member of the firm's Executive Committee, Davis oversees the firm's philanthropic work across the globe. She is also deeply committed to promoting diversity and opportunity on the home front: she also co-founded Springboard, Partners in Cross-Cultural Leadership, "a leadership education and consulting company committed to building highly diverse teams. Her passion for the issues surrounding leadership for women prompted her to help develop, design and implement a national leadership center — Spelman LEADS — in collaboration with Spelman College, where she is a trustee."
Leah Brown was inspired to found
A10 Clinical Solutions after the loss of her beloved uncle to the AIDS virus. Her goal with A10 was to promote "compassionate, highly talented clinical-research and clinical-care professionals to areas that traditionally experience healthcare disparities," or areas that aren't as attractive for researchers and investors. She also works tirelessly to promote diversity in her field, serving as Co-Founder and Vice President of non-profit Diversity Alliance for Science, Inc.; as the Pharmaceutical/Bio-Tech Industry Chair – Carolinas Minority Development Council; and on the American Heart Association Go Red for Women Executive Leadership Team (to name just a few!).
37.Lisa W. Pickrum
Lisa Wardell is paving the way for women to get into the automotive industry: As the COO of The RLJ Companies, Wardell was instrumental in the formation of of RLJ McLarty Landers Automotive and Harley-Davidson dealerships, which now has the distinction of being the largest minority automotive dealership in the U.S., with more than $600 million in annual revenues. She's been recognized by
Automotive News as one of "100 Leading Women in the North American Auto Industry," as well as by Black Enterprise magazine as one of the “75 Most Powerful Women in Business.”
38.Pamela Thomas Graham
resumé is impressive by anyone's standards: "Chief Talent, Branding and Communications Officer at Credit Suisse AG. She is also a member of the Executive Boards of Credit Suisse Group AG and Credit Suisse AG, and has global responsibility for Human Resources, Corporate Communications, Corporate Branding and Advertising, Corporate Citizenship, and for the bank’s global off-shoring program, which is comprised of five Centers of Excellence around the world. Ms. Thomas-Graham is the first woman to be appointed to the Executive Board in the bank’s history." If that's not enough for you, however, Thomas-Graham is also the author of three mystery novels, which have been published by Simon and Schuster and translated into both German and Japanese. Um, when does she sleep?
amazing career has spanned various fields, businesses, and executive positions. Once a girl whose guidance counselor laughed at her after she shared her Ivy League aspirations, Madison grew up to be an award-winning journalist, the news director of WNBC-TV, and the first Chief Diversity Officer in the history of NBCUniversal. Paula Madison is now the chief executive officer of Williams Group Holdings, the majority owner of the Los Angeles Sparks. In 2010, Madison won NABJ's Legacy Award, an honor that recognized her pioneering journalism career. Somewhere there's a former guidance counselor hanging his head in shame…
40.Claire Babineaux Fontenot
Claire Babineaux-Fontenot truly is a woman to watch. After becoming the
first person in her family to earn a college degree, Babineaux-Fontenot went on to attend law school, graduate at the top of her class, and make partner at a law firm in just a few short years. But what is most inspiring of all is that Babineaux-Fontenot had the guts to change her career focus and dive into business without any prior experience or safety net. Today, Babineaux-Fontenot is the Senior Vice President and Chief Tax Officer for Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., proving that risks can pay off big time.
Having grown up during the Civil Rights Movement and feminism's second-wave, Paula Sneed
learned to be bold and never take "no" for an answer. It was when Sneed took a job with General Foods that she found her business calling; she quickly racked up a resume that included senior executive positions at some of the most powerful international brands, including Kraft Foods, Inc. where she was responsible for leading a 700-person Global Marketing Services team. Sneed now serves as the Chairman and CEO of Phelps Prescott Group, LLC, a strategy and management consulting firm.
Susan Chapman buys, sells, and builds properties for one of the most complex portfolios in the world. As the Global Head of Operations for Citigroup Corporate Realty Services, Chapman oversees operations such as mergers and acquisitions, retail branch development, and real estate administration for a corporation with over 12,900 facilities in 96 countries. I'm stressed out just thinking about all the Citigroup businesses and employees that Chapman supports. One of the coolest things about Susan Chapman is her emphasis on greener spaces: she is co-leading the cooperation's real estate strategy around a $50 billion commitment to climate change.
You know you're doing something right when you are being fought over by two well-known brands. Tracey Travis must've been doing some incredibly right since domestics giant Estée Lauder Cos.
poached her from Ralph Lauren Corp. where she was acting as senior vice president and chief financial officer. Travis is of course no stranger to Fortune 500 Companies, beginning her career at General Motors Co. and spending time at both PepsiCo Inc. and Limited Brands, Inc.
44.Valerie Mosley Diamond
Valerie Mosley Diamond has as much power and clout as she does names. As the Senior Vice President and Partner of Wellington Management Company, Diamond
oversees a $540 billion global money management firm and manages fixed income portfolios for cooperate and public pension funds, endowments, and mutual funds. We'll be honest — we don't know what a lot of those words mean but they have to be pretty important since President Obama himself hand-selected Diamond to be a member of the re-established President's Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Diamond was also named one of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business in the country and one of the Top 75 Blacks on Wall Street by Black Enterprise Magazine.
We have just dubbed Vicki Fuller the queen of multitasking: Fuller is not only the
Senior Vice Presidents and managing director of Public Funds at AllianceBernstein but she also somehow finds the time to be the chief investment officer of the $150.3 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund, a Chairperson of the KeySpan Foundation and a member of the board of trustees of North Carolina Agricultural & Technology University. We don't know how she does it but we do know this: we'll have whatever it is she's having.
46.Esi Eggleston Bracey
If you're like us and have fallen in love with Cover Girl's Lash Blast mascara (those Drew Barrymore commercials were really convincing),
Esi Eggleston Bracey is the woman you have to thank for your new longer, lusher lashes. At just 38, Bracey is the VP of global cosmetics at P&G and under her leadership, CoverGirl's U.S shares have been up in all three of its major categories — eye, lip, and face. Bracey brought a much-needed diversity to the P&G brand: now only is she P&G's first female African-American general manager and but she has also helped to expand the definition of all-American beauty by signing diverse personalities such as Queen Latifah and Ellen Degeneres as CoverGirl spokeswomen.
Glady DeClouet-Mims has been overcoming stereotypes and biases since day one. She
began her career in the male-dominated oil industry as an engineer in offshore oil and gas exploration. She quickly rose up the ranks of British Petroleum Inc., ending up in business development, where DeClouet-Mims found her stride. Today, DeClouet-Mims is the senior vice president, North America company operations, of Burger King Corp. She is responsible for all operations and the profitability of the American and Canadian company-owned restaurants
Marjorie Perry is proof that there is no such thing as "women's work." Not only did Perry enter the non-traditional field of business and entrepreneurship, launching her consulting company after leaving her career as an educator, but she then became the sole principal of a construction company, MZM Construction & Management. Under Perry's competent helm, MZM has sustained a multi-million dollar bottom-line for the past nineteen years. Perry now speaks at conventions and events around the country, inspiring women and minorities in business. Marjorie Perry, we're in awe of you.
49.Nelda J. Connors
After obtaining both a B.S and M.S degree in mechanical engineering, Nelda J. Connors
switched lanes and became a powerful force in business. Beginning her career as a co-op at Monsanto Corporation, Connors has served as Vice President at Eaton Corporation and President and CEO of Atkore International, one of the world’s largest producers of electrical steel conduit, pre-wired armored electrical cable, mechanical and structural steel, fence and fire production products for non-residential construction. In 2011, Connor drew upon her diverse experiences and founded Pine Grove Holdings, LLC, a business operating growth-oriented manufacturing companies. Today, Connor is Pine Grove Holdings' Chairwoman and CEO as well as an independent director for Boston Scientific Corporation, a trustee for Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.
Sheryl Adkins-Green has
done it all — after receiving her MBA from Harvard Business School, Adkins-Green worked as an executive for Kraft Foods, Snapple Beverage Group, Alberto-Culver, and Citigroup. Today, she is the Chief Marketing Officer of iconic domestics brand Mary Kay Inc. where her goal is "to make the Mary Kay brand irresistible!" We're not the first to recognize Adkins-Green's accomplishments; just last year, she received the inaugural Global Marketer Award from the Academy of Marketing Science, a distinction that recognizes an individual's contribution to global market development.