20 Black Women Of Power & Influence

These African American female corporate executives are shaping the way business is done

$217 million–roughly half the company’s operating expenses–Pryor, 44, oversees Information Systems, Operations Processing, Claims, Customer Service, Total Quality Management, Operations Management and Medicare Operations. Her charges total over 2,000 people spread out over seven locations.

Having earned a B.A. and J.D. from the State University of New York at Buffalo and an M.B.A. and C.P.A. from the University of Illinois, not only does Pryor look good on paper, she delivers. Changes such as streamlining management and increasing communication lines among employees have improved quality and lowered 1996 costs by over $14 million.

Prior to joining the Boston-based company in 1993, Pryor worked for Allstate Life Insurance Co., where in five years, she led Sears and Discover credit insurance products from ground zero to $75 million in sales annually.

“I’ve always worked hard to focus on what’s in front of me,” explains the Chicago native. “And knowing the value of my contributions has driven me more than anything else.”
–Hal Karp

SLYVIA RHONE Chairman and CEO, Elektra Entertainment Group
Walk into a club in the East Village of New York City one evening and you might spot Sylvia Rhone consorting with some of today’s popular hip- hop stars. The next day, dressed in full corporate attire, the chairman and CEO of the New York-based Elektra Entertainment Group is heading to a board meeting.

This ability to bridge street life and corporate America is what has made Rhone a driving force in the music industry–and its only African American woman to head a major record label. “I’ve been successful at being able to identify young, new talent and taking established artists to superstar levels,” says Rhone, who prides herself on her full- service, multigenre label that boasts headliners from Metallica to En Vogue to Tracy Chapman.

“I know how to manage a company financially and combine it with solid relationships with creative people. It’s those two worlds that I fuse together,” says the 40-something New York native.
After starting out in the administrative pool of Buddha Records in 1974, she steadily rose through the ranks of record labels such as ABC and Atlantic Records, holding various marketing and promotion positions. In 1990, Rhone launched EastW
est Records (then a subsidiary of Atlantic Records), becoming its president and CEO. She was instrumental in the 1994 merger of EastWest, Sire and Elektra Records into the Elektra Entertainment Group–a part of the Warner Music Group and a $5-billion global music subsidiary of Time Warner/Turner-which she now heads.

Since she took over, Elektra’s record sales have gone from $200 million to more than $300 million in 1996, making it Warner Music’s most profitable label two years running. Keeping grounded is important to the Wharton B-School graduate. “I don’t think any business will cause me to lose sight of myself, because that’s where I get my inner strength.”
–Bevolyn Williams-Harold

LINDA JOHNSON RICEPresident and COO Johnson Publishing
“Make yourself indispensable,” is the sound advice from Linda Johnson Rice, president and chief operating officer at Johnson Publishing Co., offered to women entering corporate America. As the heir apparent to the largest

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