She’s In Charge: African-American Women CEOs In Corporate America

February 8, 2013  |  
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In the corporate world, there still are very few African-American women who rise to the position of CEO. In fact, at the Fortune 500 firms while there are currently six black CEOs, only one of them is a woman. Here is a look at African-American female CEOs — past and present — of some of the country’s major companies and organizations.

Rosaland Brewer of Sam´s Club

Rosaland Brewer of Sam´s Club

We’re sure Rosalind Brewer gets a great discount at Wal-Mart. Last year, Wal-Mart appointed her as its first woman and first African-American to head one of its subsidiary companies, Sam’s Club. Brewer is now president and CEO of the chain, which has more than 600 locations nationwide. Brewer joined Walmart in 2006 as regional vice president. From 2007 to January 2012, she was the Southeast division president. Next, she was executive vice president and president of Walmart East.

Before joining Walmart, Brewer was a scientist for Kimberly-Clark. She earned a bachelor’s in chemistry from Spelman College, attended the advanced management program at The Wharton School, and graduated from Director’s College at the University Of Chicago School of Business/Stanford School Of Law.

Xerox´s Ursula Burns

Xerox´s Ursula Burns

You may have read about Ursula M. Burns in the past. She became the first black woman to head a Fortune 500 company—and still is the only one to achieve this professional height. Burns is chairman and chief executive officer of Xerox, which has annual sales approaching $23 billion.  And to think she started her career in 1980 when she joined Xerox as a mechanical engineering summer intern. The internship turned into a full-time job and Burns, later assumed roles in product development and planning. From 1992 through 2000, she led several business teams just as the company has expanding its offerings.

By 2000, Burns was named senior vice president of Corporate Strategic Services. She helped restructure Xerox during its turnaround and through her work and leadership the company emerged as a leader in color technology and document services. In April 2007, Burns was named president and elected a member of the company’s Board of Directors. Two years later she was named CEO. One of her first moves in this position was the largest acquisition in Xerox history, the $6.4 billion purchase of Affiliated Computer Services.  On May 20, 2010, Burns became chairman.

She has degrees from Polytechnic Institute of NYU and Columbia University.  She is also a board director of the American Express Corporation and Exxon Mobil Corporation. In March 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama appointed Burns vice chair of the President’s Export Council.

And Burns makes time to give back working with nonprofits like FIRST – (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), National Academy Foundation, MIT, and the U.S. Olympic Committee. She is also a founding board director of Change the Equation, which focuses on improving the U.S.’s education system in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

stacey stewart

via Twitter

Stacey Stewart, former president and CEO for the Fannie Mae Foundation, is the first African-American female president in the 125-year history of United Way.  As U.S. President, United Way Worldwide, Stewart works with leaders throughout the United Way network to drive community impact in the areas of education, income and health. Prior to this, Stewart was Executive Vice President, Community Impact Leadership and Learning at United Way Worldwide.

Stewart holds a master’s of business administration in finance from the University of Michigan and a bachelor of arts in economics from Georgetown University.

AnnFudgeShe is now retired, but Ann Fudge was one of first black female CEOs of a major American corporation. She served as the chairman and chief executive officer of international marketing and communications giant Young & Rubicam from 2003 to the end of 2006. Fudge, who received a BA degree from Simmons College and an MBA from Harvard University, had a solid corporate background before coming to Y&R. She had previously worked at General Mills and at General Foods, where she served in a number of positions including president of Kraft General Foods’ Maxwell House Coffee Company.

Today, she still stays in the mix. Fudge is a director of Novartis AG, Unilever PLC, and Infosys Ltd. She is also chair of the U.S. Program Advisory Panel of the Gates Foundation, a trustee of the Rockefeller Foundation and serves on the Advisory Council of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Foreign Affairs Policy Board of the U.S. State Department. Plus Fudge also served as a member of President Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.

Sylvia Rhone, former CEO of Elektra Entertainment Group (Joe Seer / Shutterstock.com )

Sylvia Rhone, former CEO of Elektra Entertainment Group
(Joe Seer / Shutterstock.com )

If you ask anyone who is the most important female executive in the music business, Sylvia Rhone will surely be the name you hear. Rhone’s appointment in 1994 as chairwoman and CEO of Elektra Entertainment Group made her the only African American and the first woman in the history of the recording industry to attain such a title. After leaving EEG, Rhone helmed Universal Motown until 2011.

Now out on her own, last year Rhone partnered up with Epic for a new joint venture– Vested in Culture (VIC), which will soon release a slate of first releases, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Rhone will serve as chairman of VIC.

According to THR, the label’s first releases will be the debut from Latin pop star Kat Dahlia, followed by a new album from indie pop duo Quadron and the debut LP from R&B singer-songwriter Deon Young. Rhone has a history of making musical greats. She is credited with building the careers of En Vogue, Missy Elliot, and Busta Rhymes, among others.

BET´s Debra L. Lee (Helga Esteb / Shutterstock.com)

BET´s Debra L. Lee
(Helga Esteb / Shutterstock.com)

Debra L. Lee took over as Chairman and CEO of BET Networks, a media and entertainment subsidiary of Viacom, and wanted to revamp the brand. And that she has. Lee actually joined the company in 1986 and served in a number of executive posts before ascending to her present position in January 2006. Prior to joining BET, Lee was an attorney with Washington, D.C.-based law firm Steptoe & Johnson.

She also now serves on the boards of directors of WGL Holdings, Inc., and Revlon, Inc. And was a director of Eastman Kodak Company from 1999 to May 2011. She also serves on the board of a number of professional and civic organizations including The Grammy Foundation Advisory Council, the Kennedy Center’s Community & Friends, and the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater.

ksandersWhile Kim D. Saunders is actually the second woman to be president and CEO of  African-American bank M&F Bancorp and its wholly owned subsidiary, Mechanics and Farmers Bank, she is making the position her own. She took over the post in 2007 and has steered the bank through trying economic times. A graduate of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, she was also previously president and CEO of Consolidated Bank and Trust Co. Under her leadership, Consolidated returned to profitability for the first time in six years.

Saunders earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from the Wharton School of Finance and Commerce at the University of Pennsylvania.

Girls Inc´s Joyce M. Roché

Girls Inc´s Joyce M. Roché

Joyce M. Roché, past president and CEO Girls Incorporated, has been a corporate trailblazer for 25 years.

Roché’s management and marketing expertise is particularly critical as Girls Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowered girls and an equitable society, aims to expand its outreach to millions of girls across the country through technology, wider program distribution, and new efforts for public education and advocacy.

Before joining Girls Inc., Roché served as President and CEO of African-American personal care company Carson Products Company, and Vice President of Global Marketing at Avon Products, Inc. During her tenure at Carson, sales increased more than 130 percent. And at Avon, she was the company´s first African-American female vice president, the first African-American vice president of marketing, and the company’s first vice president of global marketing.

Roché is a graduate of HBCU Dillard University in New Orleans and holds an MBA from Columbia University.  She currently sits on the Board of Directors of AT&T Inc., Tupperware Corporation, Anheuser-Busch Companies, Federated Department Stores Inc., and The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. She is also the chair of the Board of Trustees for Dillard University.

Faye Wattleton, former CEO of Planned Parenthood

Faye Wattleton, former CEO of Planned Parenthood

Faye Wattleton became known for her outspoken pro-choice stance and as a fierce women’s health care advocate when she was President and CEO of the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary reproductive health provider, Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), from 1978 to 1992. She was the youngest, first woman and first African American, and the longest tenured professional to hold this position. She helped restructure Planned Parenthood, building it to become the nation’s seventh largest nonprofit organization.

Wattleton is  currently a managing director with Alvarez & Marsal.  She serves on the board of directors of Jazz at Lincoln Center. Previously, she served on the boards of directors of Leslie Fay (1993-1998), Estée Lauder Companies (1995-2003) and WellChoice, Inc. (1993-2005).

Wattleton earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Ohio State University and a master’s degree from Columbia University.

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  • kierah

    Yay! Inspirational for sure 🙂

  • NaturalJem

    A grand applause to all of these women on their success and achievements!!!!