20 Black Women Of Power & Influence

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

appoint one person to run the company,” says Lee, who has a master’s in public policy and a J.D. from Harvard. Drawing on her experience as a corporate attorney, she uses what she calls a “mediating style” of management– especially handy when allocating the company’s $100 million annual operating budget. Through BET, Lee is finally able to influence public policy, though not quite in the manner she’d first envisioned.
–Tariq K. Muhammad

CATHERINE LEWIS Vice President, Product Support Sales, Southern U.S. Region, IBM
“I wanted to be either a lawyer or mathematician,” recalls Catherine J. Lewis who, at the age of 12, wanted a career in which she could use her strong analytical and decision-making skills. Today, with a Grambling State University math degree behind her, the vice president of product support serv
ices for IBM’s Southern U.S. region in Atlanta is analyzing the computer market for big businesses. Contributing to her climb up the ranks of the $75.9 billion computer technology leader was “a unique ability to look at complex problems, break them apart and put them back together,” says Lewis.
In a role she has had since April, Lewis is delivering hardware, software and networking services and products to Big Blue’s large business customers from Maryland to Florida and Tennessee to Mississippi. As part of the $15.8 billion global services division, Lewis’ region ranks second out of six, and her team of 900 is poised to bring in $600 million in revenues this year.

With 18 years of leadership experience under her belt, Lewis knows the importance of understanding the customer. The former senior director at IBM’s Lotus Development Corp. says she must give her clients more. “I’ve tried to stay in touch with the customer, to listen, get to the core of the problem and quickly get on with the fixing,” says Lewis, 50.

“In order to be a good leader, you must also be a good communicator,” so the Minden, Louisiana, native spends a majority of her time in the field talking to clients to maintain service and grow her market. “It’s the only way to find out if what we have in our toolbox will get us where they want to go.”
–Hal Karp

GLENDA GOODLY MCNEAL Vice President, American Express
In some circles, a person having more than five different jobs in eight years at one company might be considered high-risk. But when that person is Glenda Goodly McNeal at American Express Co., those moves have added up to nothing short of a gold mine.

Having sharpened her marketing skills in the company’s traveler’s checks and consumer card divisions, McNeal is now on the establishment services side where she is currently vice president of strategic relationships in the travel and entertainment industries.

With a $15 million budget, the Louisiana native manages the client relationships of 14 North American accounts that generate more than $10 billion in charge volume. Those clients include such heavy hitters as American Airlines, Walt Disney and Hilton Hotels. The former Salomon Brothers mortgage specialist says her goal, in this position that

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