Black businesswomen, Black History Month

Recognizing Excellence: 5 Black Businesswomen Who Are Shaping Industries And Inspiring Future Generations

During Black History Month, BLACK ENTERPRISE recognizes and celebrates five Black businesswomen who have and still "stand on business."

Throughout history, Black businesswomen of all calibers have transformed the business landscape. From inventors and movement leaders to entrepreneurs and C-suite trailblazers, BLACK ENTERPRISE recognizes and celebrates five Black businesswomen who “stand on business” to pave the way for future generations.

Marian Rogers Croak: Tech Inventor

National Hall of Inventors inductee Marian Rogers Croak is the mastermind and engineer behind today’s audio and video conferencing capabilities vital for remote work and communications. She began her career at Bell Labs (AT&T) in 1982 and pioneered advancing Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technologies. She discovered a way to convert voice data into digital signals that can be easily transmitted over the internet rather than using traditional phone lines. Croak has more than 200 patents to her name throughout her career, having created a text-to-donate system for charitable organizations and led a team bringing broadband to developing countries in Asia and Africa. Croak is vice president of engineering at Google and leads the Research Center for Responsible AI and Human Centered Technology. She is also passionate about her work on racial justice efforts at Google and continues her goal of encouraging women and young girls in engineering. 

Shelley V. Worrell: Caribbean Community Champion

Shelley V. Worrell is full of vibes. She is the founder and CEO of caribBEING, where “art + culture + lifestyle meet Caribbean + LatinX heritage.” This cultural venture illuminates the Caribbean and West Indian experience and communities in Greater New York City. In 2017, the Flatbush native and Brooklyn 100 Influencer led the movement behind the Brooklyn, NY’s Little Caribbean neighborhood designation. It is home to people, restaurants, and small businesses that thrive together by sharing social and cultural histories and futures. Since then, the Flatbush native and Brooklyn 100 Influencer has advocated for the Caribbean’s sociocultural and political impact in Brooklyn. She has also designed neighborhood “Little Caribbean Food + Culture” walking tours attracting domestic and international visitors to stimulate economic and community development. The work continues as Worrell leads Community Partnerships at the U.S. Department of Commerce.

RJ White: Sports Business Trailblazer

RJ White, a CEO and president of three sports teams, is a history-maker whose goal is to become the first Black woman to own an NBA team. White is the first Black woman to purchase a men’s division team in the UK and the youngest woman owner of a professional men’s basketball team in American Basketball Association (ABA) history. Since 2003, White has led the Connecticut Copperheads and the Nassau Salamanders of the Bahamas. In 2014, she established Vipers Pro Basketball in Lake County, IL. The team has exposure in 12 countries and has reached over 3 million in analytics. When she is not coaching Nike sports camps, White is setting her sights on revolutionizing the fashion and technology landscapes. The author of She Believed She Could So She Did recently introduced the world’s first signed posh multiverse model.

Gwendolyn Butler: Real Estate Model

Gwendolyn Butler is revered for her many trailblazing accolades and for being a model for Black businesswomen in finance, investment, and real estate. Among BLACK ENTERPRISE’s “75 Most Powerful Women in Business,” Butler was the first African American female to be appointed vice president of commercial lending at Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust Co. in 1977. She is also the first African American female president and COO in the commercial real estate management industry. Throughout her career, Butler has made a name for herself as a nonprofit real estate developer who applied her skill set to her presidential and chief operating officer role at Capri Investment Group and various financial services companies. Under her leadership, Butler completed more than $13 billion in commercial real estate investments at Capri. She serves as an Independent Director at Goldman Sachs Real Estate Income Trust in Chicago.

Esi Eggleston Bracey: Groundbreaker In Retail Sales

A native of Chicago, Esi Eggleston Bracey’s motto is “passion power.” She proudly lives out her purpose, breaking barriers and inspiring collective greatness. In 1991, she made history when she became one of the youngest employees to become general manager at Procter & Gamble. She later became senior vice president of Procter & Gamble’s Global Cosmetics, leading a portfolio of flagship international make-up brands, including Covergirl, Max Factor, Sally Hansen, Rimmel London, and more. Bracey now leads the multibillion-dollar Beauty & Personal Care portfolio for Unilever North America, where she is responsible for the hair, skin cleansing, skincare, and deodorant businesses with iconic brands such as Dove, TRESemmé, Suave, Vaseline, Degree, Axe, and Shea Moisture.

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