The Ten Most Powerful African American Women In Business
12:08 pm, February 24th | by
We love to celebrate powerful women — so what better opportunity than Black History Month to compile a list of the Ten Most Powerful African American Women In Business? Some of these ladies will be familiar and others, we hope, will be fresh faces who’ll grab your attention. Disclaimer: in choosing these distinguished dames, we might’ve used a little something called subjectivity. Did we crunch numbers with some fancy algorithm to figure out who’s the most powerful? Not so much. But these are the women who captivate us– and the ones we think wield the most power.
Oh, and one last thing: we realize that a couple of these women aren’t
technically in business, but we assure you– they belong on this list– and we’ll be more than happy to explain why.
1.Ursula Burns: CEO, Xerox
She got her start at Xerox as a summer engineering intern and rose through the ranks to eventually become CEO. Not only is she a beacon of hope to all those unpaid interns out there, but she’s also a real-life Horatio Alger reminder that a woman raised by a single mother in the housing projects of New York City can succeed to the point where she’s
ranked #27 on Forbes’ Most Powerful Women in the Universe list and recognized as the first African American woman CEO to head a Fortune 500 Company.
2.Edith Cooper: Global Head of Human Capital Management, Goldman Sachs
We’re assuming—and it doesn’t take great leaps to get here—that Lloyd Blankfein is probably not the easiest person to deal with. Which is why we think it’s so great that he has Edith Cooper to keep him in check. As
the global head of human capital management, Cooper oversees all matters related to recruiting, developing, and retaining talent for the firm. In other words, she’s in charge of everyone, and we mean everyone, who works for the multi-billion dollar investment and trading behemoth.
3.Pamela Thomas Graham: Chief Talent, Branding and Communications Officer, Credit Suisse
Because she’s done a zillion different things and we kinda want to
steal her resume and pretend it’s our own. Before she joined Credit Suisse, Graham served as Group President of Liz Claiborne’s wholesale apparel business, was President, CEO, and Chair(wo)man of CNBC television, Director of CNBC International, and President and CEO of CNBC.com. She also had time for a ten-year stint at the Harvard of consulting firms, McKinsey. Not to mention the fact that she actually went to Harvard—as an undergrad, law student, and business student.
4.Tracey Travis: Independent Director, Campbell Soup Co. and Chief Financial Officer & Senior Vice President, Ralph Lauren Corp
She’s one of the most visible and respected financial minds out there. And fine, maybe we’re a little biased because we love food and clothing, and she
checks both off the list.
5.Diane Ashley: Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer, Federal Reserve Bank of New York
It’s a no-brainer that
Ashley’s super-powerful. She's basically in charge of all the money in New York. Plus, she’s dedicated her life to furthering the positions of women and minorities in the workforce. How could you not admire her?
6.Helene Gayle: MD, MPH, President and CEO, CARE USA
Lots of doctors get into the healthcare business for the wrong reasons- it’s good money and, unless you’re on call, it’s got pretty decent hours. And it’s not often that a doctor—even with the best of intentions—will parlay their healthcare skills into creating a humanitarian organization. But that’s exactly what Helene Gayle did…. Because clearly curing people’s illnesses wasn’t enough for her, so she had to go ahead and fight global poverty too. Check out her organization’s website
7.Kimberly Davis: Managing Director, Global Philanthropy and President, the JPMorgan Chase Foundation
Having control over how a large company conducts its business can be a pretty daunting and ego-trip-inducing experience. But Davis, who’s in charge of millions of dollars, checks her ego at the door. She
oversees the distribution of funds to tons of global charitable organizations, and in her spare time—of which she has tons, I’m sure—she runs Springboard, Partners in Cross-Cultural Leadership, dedicated to building strong women (and other diverse) leaders.
8.Eleanor Holmes Norton: Delegate, 1991–Present, District of Columbia
Yeah, we know she’s not technically a businesswoman, but isn’t politics the business of life… or something? Maybe. Either way, she’s a ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Economic Development and she’s helped end the city’s most serious financial crisis, so her job is related to money, and in a very real way.
9.Ruth Simmons: President, Brown University
Attending university is a pretty sweet deal—a few classes a day, usually lots of free food lying around, but running a university? Not the kind of low-stress career I’d like to have. Simmons is the first black president of an Ivy League institution, and she’s done a damn good job. Under her tenure, Brown received its largest donation, a cool $120 mill.
10.Oprah Winfrey: The Everything Woman
What can we even say about Oprah? She’s done it all and then she’ll go ahead and do something we never expected. Like starting her own T.V. network and heading to Haiti or sitting down for dinner with a bunch of Hassidim. Suffice to say that we think she deserves to be on every Most-Powerful-Person list until forever.