20 Black Women Of Power & Influence

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

she has had since April, is to “understand her client’s business and create strategic alliances to meet their objectives.” McNeal is poised to form partnerships similar to American Express’ White Glove Treatment program with Walt Disney World, which offers cardholders special benefits when they visit Disney properties.

Throughout her career, McNeal has learned a valuable lesson. “It is important to have a solid support system. I had people both inside and outside the company to whom I could go to and test things out,” says the 36-year-old Wharton Business School graduate. “It was good to have someone who knew the politics and players within the organization and others outside who could give unbiased career advice.”

Relishing the fact that she is finally in charge, McNeal cautions, “it is important to balance personal values and career aspirations. You never want to relinquish 100% control of your career.”
–Valerie Lynn Gray

YVONNE MONTGOMERY Senior Vice President and General Manager, Southern Customer Operations for U.S. Customer Operations, Xerox
For Yvonne Montgomery, there is no substitute for hard work. Since joining the Xerox Corp. in 1976 as a sales representative, Montgomery has held formidable sales positions. From her office in Atlanta, the Howard University graduate casts a vast net across the south as senior vice president and general manager of Southern Customer Operations for U.S. Customer Operations–Xerox’s U.S. marketing group.

As the leader of eight customer business units from Texas to the Carolinas and Puerto Rico, Montogomery, 42, has over 3,000 employees and revenues of roughly $1.5 billion. Despite her rise up the sales career track, it was a 1993, two-year tour as executive assistant to Xerox Chairman and CEO Paul Allaire that gave her a true understanding of the Stamford, Connecticut-based corporation.
“This was the first time I really stepped out of the traditional sales environment. The experience took me out of my ‘comfort zone’ and gave me an opportunity to gain exposure to all divisions,” recalls Montgomery, who served briefly as vice president of marketing for Latin American operations in 1995.

Montgomery’s main goals are capturing the marketplace opportunities and leading the technology transition into the digital world. “We will do this by continuing to understand our customer’s needs and working together to solve their business problems,” she says. A main source of her motivation lies in one simple belief: “I am the one who ultimately controls my destiny.”
–Keisha Anderson

VIKKI PRYOR Senior Vice President, Customer Operations and Service,Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts
With the evolution of health care, insurance companies increasingly tow the line between keeping costs down and being profitable and providing quality service to patients. When Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts began to restructure to survive the advent of managed care, Vikki Pryor was quickly tapped to be the change agent.

As senior vice president of customer operations and service for the $3.4 billion company–which ranks among one of the nation’s largest BlueCross/BlueShield plans–Vikki Pryor is responsible for an infrastructure that supports more than 4,600 employees and 1.9 million members. Armed with a budget of

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