50 Most Powerful Black Women In Business

50 Most Powerful Black Women In Business

Membership in the corporate elite doesn’t come easy. It requires having the power to steer some of the world’s corporate leviathans and impact the products companies sell, the markets they pursue, and the revenues flowing into their coffers. Because of their pull, the executives, entrepreneurs, and specialized professionals who appear on this list make up BLACK ENTERPRISE’s list of the 50 Most Powerful Black Women in Business. And they run the gamut, from senior managers of multinational corporations to founders of the nation’s largest black-owned businesses.

Over a six-month period, our editors reviewed biographies and resumes and conducted interviews with hundreds of potential candidates. Since a title is not automatically synonymous with power, we further narrowed the list by talking to top executives, industry insiders, and the heads of professional organizations. All candidates were judged based on the following criteria: the extent to which her clout inside the company has a direct impact on revenues, profitability, product development, and brand position; the scope of her career; her ability to influence the direction of major corporations, nonprofits, and institutions through board membership; her unfettered access to the CEO, top management, and corporate board; and her industrywide reputation. Women who hold positions in diversity, human resources, legal affairs, corporate communications, and other staff management areas were not eligible.

Without exception, our list reveals 50 women who represent the top echelon of business. They have authority over budgets totaling billions of dollars and they control subsidiaries, divisions, or departments that affect the fiscal health and direction of their entities.

Although the clout of our top 50 is considerable, very little has changed in the executive suite. According to Catalyst, a research and advisory firm, women of color represent about 1.6% of corporate officers and top earners at the nation’s 500 leading industrial companies. When we published our list of “21 Women of Power and Influence in Corporate America” in 1991, black women constituted 3% of corporate management and 0.9% of corporate officers. According to Catalyst, women of color currently hold 3% of the board seats at 415 of the nation’s 500 largest industrial corporations. Of all 655 seats held by women, 104 are held by African Americans. Says Katherine Giscombe, Catalyst’s senior director of research, many women of color continue to get “discouraged by looking up the corporate ladderand seeing relatively few people who look like them.” Furthermore, she maintains that women of color tend not to get connected with people who can champion their careers.

The fact that there still aren’t many African American women in the C-suite clearly shows that the playing field still requires leveling. And American business better take notice: The powerful women on our list clearly demonstrate that it needs their contributions to remain a vital, competitive force in the global economy.

50 Most Powerful Black Women In Business

ADRIAN E. BRACY VP of Finance St. Louis Rams, St. Louis, MO. Age: 45
Clout: In the male-dominated world of professional football, Bracy is making a name for herself in the front office. As vice president of finance for the St. Louis Rams, she prepares and implements the annual budget and monthly financial reporting. No stranger to the NFL, Bracy previously served as director of finance and administration for Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami and as controller for the Miami Dolphins. She also serves on the board of Girls Inc. of St. Louis and the advisory council of the St. Louis branch of the United Negro College Fund.

JANICE BRYANT HOWROYD CEO Act 1 Group Torrance, CA. Age: 53
Clout: Under Bryant Howroyd’s stewardship, ACT 1 Group (No. 4 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/ SERVICE 100 list with $622.7 million in revenues) has mushroomed into a multidivisional company. In addition to its core human resources operation, the company provides technical services, creative communications, business travel, and owns an online college that focuses on business administration and engineering. A major philanthropist, she chairs a $100 million capital campaign for North Carolina A&T University and has pledged $10 million for student scholarships.

URSULA M. BURNS President, Business Group Operations/Corporate Senior VP Xerox Corp. Stanford, CT Age: 47
Clout: Having been a top performer for two decades at Xerox, Burns currently heads a $12 billion division of the company that generates 75% of its $15.7 billion in revenues. With CEO Ann Mulcahy, this dynamo helped bring the office solutions giant back into the black and has been instrumental in revitalizing the brand by restructuring the financial plan and streamlining operations. Outside the company, she serves on the board of American Express and Boston Scientific Corp.

SUSAN CHAPMAN Global Head of Operations Citigroup Realty Services New York, NY. Age: 37
Clout: Chapman manages the day-to-day operations for Citigroup Realty in 96 countries. She holds the No. 2 spot in the business unit, which is responsible for all mergers and acquisitions and bringing new properties into the portfolio. When MetLife bought Citigroup’s Travelers Life & Annuity business earlier this year, Chapman’s team negotiated and executed the transaction. Chapman sits on the Dean’s Advisory Board for the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Business.

EDITH W. COOPER Head of North American Hedge Fund Distribution, Fixed Income, Currencies & Commodities Goldman Sachs New York, NY. Age: 44
Clout: Two years after joining Goldman Sachs in 1996, Cooper was promoted to managing director. She gained ample experience as co-head of the company’s commodity business for Europe and Asia, and in 2004,she co-headed the company’s global clearing and execution in the equity division. Prior to her current position, Cooper headed the company’s global futures business.

AMY ELLIS-SIMON Managing Director,Head of Multiproduct Sales Merrill Lynch New York, NY. Age: 33
Clout: Ellis-Simon heads a hard-driving team that generates millions of dollars in revenues. The first African American woman to become a managing director in investment banking at Merrill Lynch, Ellis-Simon is a one-stop shop for institutional investors looking for opportunities across all asset classes. She’s co-founder of the Global Markets and Investment Banking Women’s Leadership Council, a founder and chairperson of Three Sisters Scholarship Foundation, and a member of the Diversity Employee Advisory Council.

DIANA S. FERGUSON SVP of Strategy & Corporate Development Sara Lee Corp. Chicago, IL Age: 42
Clout: Ferguson is leading the charge to divest Sara Lee of its non-core operations so it can focus solely on food, beverages, household products, and body care. As the highest-ranking African American female at the $18 billion conglomerate, Ferguson is charged with identifying opportunities for new acquisitions in each of Sara Lee’s business lines. In addition to serving on the board of directors of Franklin Electric and Peoples Energy, she also serves on the board of the nonprofit Metropolitan Family Services.

JERRI DEVARD Senior VP, Brand Management & Marketing Verizon New York, NY. Age: 47
To hear industry watchers tell it, DeVard is a shepherd of technology. She’s guiding a flock of 47.4 million Verizon customers to use the company’s services to enrich their personal and professional lives. At the end of the day, DeVard seeks the answer to one simple question: “How are we enabling technology to allow you to do things that are important to you?” Her response is to bolster the Verizon brand and communicate its value across its three business units: wireless, broadband, and information services. And by leveraging technology in marketing, DeVard has helped transform the telecom giant into the brand leader in this ultracompetitive sector.

Since joining the company in 2003, DeVard has pushed Verizon’s innovative technology with advertising campaigns such as “Richer, Deeper, Broader,” which touted how the company’s broadband capabilities impact people’s everyday lives. Another campaign, “Realize Your Dream,” was targeted to would-be entrepreneurs. DeVard’s marketing strategies have been a key factor in Verizon posting $71 billion in revenues in 2005 as well as increasing its market share.

The marketing whiz joined Verizon after stints at Citigroup, where she served as chief marketing officer of its e-consumer business, and Revlon, where she rose to vice president of marketing for color cosmetics. Her secret for success, she says, is being a student of human behavior — understanding how people choose one brand over another. She developed an interest in creating consumer demand while completing her M.B.A. at Clark Atlanta University Graduate School of Management. “I was able to hone that craft by going to work for Pillsbury, a consumer-packaged-goods company,” says DeVard.

She serves on the boards of Tommy Hilfiger Corp., the Association of National Advertisers, the Executive Leadership Council, and the Pepsi AfricanAmerican Advisory Board.

ANN FUDGE Chairwoman & CEO Y&R and Young & Rubicam Brands New York, NY Age: 54
Clout: As head of Y&R and Young and Rubicam Brands, Fudge manages a marketing powerhouse that includes Y&R advertising, Burson-Marsteller public relations, Wunderman direct and database marketing, and Sudler & Hennessey healthcare communications. In previous jobs, she developed a 20-year track record of strengthening household brands such as Maxwell House Coffee, Kool-Aid, and Jell-O. Fudge serves on General Electric’s board of directors, the Harvard Board of Overseers, and as a trustee of the Brookings Institution.

VICKI L. FULLER SVP & Senior Portfolio Manager Alliance Capital Management Corp. New York, NY Age: 48
Clout: Working at Alliance Capital Management — which has nearly $550 billion in assets under management — has kept Fuller’s plate full. From endowments to foundations, pension plans to individuals, Fuller and her team oversee an extensive platform of fixed income portfolios. With 24 years of investment experience, she is a senior member of both the fixed income strategy committee and the management committee. Prior to joining Alliance in 1993, Fuller worked for Equitable Capital Management Corp. and later for Morgan Stanley. She’s a certified public accountant and her board affiliations include Mercy Center and Women for the Apollo.

LINDA GOODEN President, Information Technology Lockheed Martin Seabrook, MD. Age: 52
Clout: Under Gooden’s leadership, Lockheed Martin has become a vital force in post-9-11 America. Working with the Department of Defense, Social Security Administration, and the FBI, Gooden’s department improves the efficiency of federal agencies while allowing them to share information securely. In seven years, she has expanded the unit from a 140-member strike team to a 16,000-person division that grossed more than $2 billion in 2005. Gooden is the 2006 recipient of the Black Engineer of the Year award and serves on the boards of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association and the University of Maryland’s A. James Clark School of Engineering.

GLENDA GOODLY MCNEAL SVP & General Manager, Retail & Emerging Industries, Establishment Services, North America American Express New York, NY. Age: 45
Clout: A top executive at the $29.1 billion financial services monolith, McNeal manages American Express’ largest and most complex customer relationships; she orchestrates retail campaigns to expand revenue streams. During her 17-year tenure at the company, she has held key marketing and sales positions. She chairs the marketing committee of the Pepsi Ethnic Consumer Advisory Board and serves on the board of the National Retail Federation.

KIM GREEN Executive VP Willis Global Risk Solutions New York, NY. Age: 43
Clout: A calculated risk taker, Green joined Willis in 2003 to head up the newly formed consumer goods practice. Roughly 10% of the firm’s $2.2 billion in revenues has been attributed to her business expertise. Prior to joining the company, she was a senior vice president at Aon Risk Services. Green started her career in insurance at Chubb & Son Inc. and has more than 23 years of industry experience. She later launched her own insurance brokerage firm, MGIS Inc., which she soldin 1995.

CARLA A. HARRIS Managing Director, Global Capital Markets Morgan Stanley New York, NY. Age: 43
Clout: A top dealmaker on Wall Street, Harris is charged with the structuring, marketing, and execution of public and private equity deals. She has executed transactions such as the initial public offerings for UPS and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, and the $3.2 billion common stock transaction for Immunex Corp., the largest biotechnology offering in U.S. history. A leading philanthropist, Harris chairs the Food Bank for New York City, which distributes free food to more than 1.5 million people annually.

BRIDGETTE HELLER Global President, Baby, Kids & Wound Care Franchise Johnson & Johnson Consumer Products Co. Skillman, NJ. Age: 44
Clout: Heller’s team is charged with turning out skin care products for consumer products giant Johnson & Johnson, which has more than 200 operating companies that manufacture thousands of healthcare products across a number of categories. Under her management, J&J launched a line of natural baby care products last fall — its biggest launch in 10 years — which will educate parents on the changing needs of infant skin.

MELLODY HOBSON President Ariel Capital Management L.L.C. Chicago, IL. Age: 36
Clout: Hobson heads the nation’s largest black-owned money management firm (No. 1 on the BE ASSET MANAGERS list with $21.43 billion in assets under management). As manager of all business operations outside of research and portfolio management, she has made Ariel one of the investment community’s most effective operators. She is a regular commentator on ABC’s Good Morning America; has defended the mutual fund industry in testimony before Congress; and, on at least one occasion, has challenged New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.

CATHY L. HUGHES Founder, Chairwoman Radio One Inc. Lanham, MD. Age: 58
Clout: Hughes has the largest black-owned and -operated broadcast company in the nation. Created in 1980, Radio One (No. 10 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list with $364 million in revenues) boasts 70 stations in 22 urban markets and reaches more than 13 million listeners weekly. With her son at the helm, Hughes assists with other ventures. In 2004, Radio One and Comcast launched TV One Inc., a network targeted to African American adults.

DONNA A. JAMES President, NationwideStrategic Investments Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. Columbus, OH. Age: 48
Clout: James ensures the company’s growth by managing five subsidiaries that generate roughly $650 million in revenues annually. She’s also responsible for a portfolio of financial companies through Nationwide Mutual Capital, a $150 million venture capital fund. A member of the corporate executive management team, James chairs the board of Financial Settlement Services Agency Inc., a subsidiary of Nationwide. She serves on the boards of Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc. and Limited Brands Inc.

MELISSA JAMES Managing Director Morgan Stanley New York, NY. Age: 41
Clout: James oversees the Relationship Lending Business in Morgan Stanley’s Loan Products Group. She manages the origination of more than $25 billion in loan commitments. Before she became a managing director, James headed the company’s industrial origination effort, where she helped raise billions in capital for corporate clients and worked oncomplex transactions, including the first domestic yen issuance for General Electric Capital Corp., the first global bond for DuPont, and the $4 billion initial public offering of Agere Systems.

SHEILA C. JOHNSON CEO Salamander Hospitality L.L.C. Washington, DC. Age: 56
Clout: The BET co-founder is not afraid to exert her largess. Johnson is the first black woman to co-own three professional sports teams: the Washington Mystics (WNBA), Capitals (NHL), and Wizards (NBA). Her latest endeavor is a lifestyle company that includes Market Salamander, a gourmet marketplace; the luxury Salamander Resort & Spa; and Mistral, a bath and body products line. Johnson donated $7 million to Parsons School of Design, the largest donation by an individual.

DEBRA L. LEE Chairwoman, President & CEO Black Entertainment Television Washington, DC. Age: 51
Clout: Becoming the head of a media company wasn’t something Lee planned. “Over time I started getting involved in the business side of things and doing more strategic business development, so it was a natural progression.”

For Lee, succeeding Black Entertainment Television founder Bob Johnson as president and CEO last June and as chairwoman in January may have been unexpected, but it was surely deserved. She is the highest ranking African American woman at Viacom, BET’s parent company, and her tenure with the network spans 20 years. Reaching more than 80 million households in the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean, BET has grown from humble beginnings, filling the entertainment void of African Americans, to a multi-billion-dollar media conglomerate dominating the urban marketplace.

“We’re the No. 1 network targeted to African Americans and we have been for 25 years. I don’t see that changing anytime soon,” she says. What can and will change with Lee at the helm is BET’s programming. One of her goals this year is to create original programming. “I was at the White House with other black leaders talking to President Bush about issues that are important to our community,” Lee recalls. “We’re a major media network, and people look to us to see what black America is thinking and how things affect us. BET gives me that platform, and I try to use it to better serve our audience.”

LINDA JOHNSON RICE President & CEO Johnson Publishing Co. Inc. Chicago, IL. Age: 47
Clout: Johnson Rice is building upon the legacy of her late father, JPC founder John H. Johnson. Under her leadership, Ebony, the company’s flagship publication, has remained the top-selling African American monthly, and the company is No. 5 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list with $498.2 million in gross sales. She’s directing the revitalization of the magazine publishing division and developing a strategy to increase Fashion Fair’s share of the beauty market. She further exercises her influence as a board director of Bausch & Lomb Inc., Kimberly-Clark Corp., MoneyGram International, and Omnicom.

PAULA MADISON President & General Manager KNBC Regional General Manager Telemundo Los Angeles, CA. Age: 53
Clout: As the first black woman to become general manager at a network-owned station in a top-five market, Madison has made KNBCone of the leading ad-revenue-generating stations in the nation, grossing roughly $300 million. Known for her community involvement and corporate leadership, Madison has earned a number of awards including the 2004 Citizen of the Year Award and 2005 Excellence in Media Award. She also serves on the Vassar College Board of Trustees and presides over the college’s 35,000-member alumni association.

HARRIET R. MICHEL President National Minority Supplier Development Council Inc. New York, NY. Age: 63
Clout: One of the nation’s most enterprising women, Michel connects minority businesses with the largest industrial corporations. In more than 15 years as head of the NMSDC’s network of 39 affiliated regional councils, she has helped provide vending opportunities to more than 15,000 certified minority-owned companies, matching them with 3,500 corporate members. The result: Roughly $87.4 billion in goods and services were purchased from minority businesses in 2004. Michel continues to make connections through her board duties at Triad Hospitals and NY National Banks.

WONYA Y. LUCAS Executive VP and General Manager The Weather Channel Networks Atlanta, GA. Age: 44
Clout: When a colleague called Lucas about an opportunity at the Weather Channel in 2002, she wasn’t a regular viewer of the channel. Nobody took the business of weather coverage that seriously. Twenty-four hours of climate conditions? It was the brunt of many TV industry one-liners. But encouraged by her husband (who did watch the channel) and her colleague, she joined as executive vice president of marketing. In October 2005, the Wharton M.B.A., with an industrial engineering degree, also assumed the role of general manager, responsible for strategic marketing and company strategy for The Weather Channel, Weatherscan, and The Weather Channel Radio Network.

The network has access to 88 million homes and, in 2005, the channel’s prime-time average audience delivery among households grew 31% over 2002. TWC’s total day average audience delivery has increased 23% over the same period. “People come to seek information,” explains Lucas. As a result, the network is well-positioned for a number of on-demand technology opportunities, such as mobile cell phone use, podcasting, and broadband channels. Weather coverage is no longer a joke. Lucas realized their audiences never thought it was. In fact, she says that because weather affects behavior, it impacts people emotionally.

“What happens to television [often] is [TV executives] start believing they’re the target audience — and they’re not,” explains Lucas, a former senior vice president of Strategic Marketing for Domestic Networks of the CNN News Group. “You have to [talk] to the people. Most of my actions are founded in solid consumer research and understanding the consumer.” Lucas conducts a variety of focus groups as well as quantitative surveys and studies throughout the year — even in the midst of hurricane season. “In between hurricanes we’ve made changes based on what consumers told us.”

VALERIE MOSLEY DIAMOND SVP & Fixed Income Portfolio Manager Wellington Management Boston, MA. Age: 45
Clout: Mosley Diamond’s 25 years of experience in the finance industry paid off in December 2005 when Wellington Management, a $511 billion investment banking firm,appointed her partner. As a senior portfolio manager, she oversees fixed income investments, which account for 33% of the firm’s assets under management. Her responsibilities include managing corporate and public pension funds, endowments, and mutual funds. As chair of the industry strategy group, she leads the team in examining fundamental trends within industries and recommends which ones to avoid or emphasize. She is also a member of the core bond strategy group and the corporate strategy group.

KIM NELSON VP General Mills Inc. President Snacks Unlimited Golden Valley, MN. Age: 43
Clout: Since beginning her career at General Mills in 1988, Nelson has been identified as a go-to professional, whether the assignment calls for her to develop a new cereal or launch a new product line. Appointed president of Snacks Unlimited in 2004, Nelson has built Pop Secret popcorn, Nature Valley granola bars, Chex Mix, and other snack foods into highly profitable brands. In 2005, her division was a major contributor to the food giant’s $11.2 billion in net sales. Nelson also believes in developing diverse talent as well: She serves on the advisory board of the Black Champions Network, the employee association she co-founded.

CHRISTINA NORMAN President MTV New York, NY. Age: 42
Clout: Norman is a leading force in the ultracompetitive landscape of television programming. As the strategic director of MTV2; mtvU, its college service; MTV Español; MTV Hits; and MTV Jams, she oversees programming, marketing, ad sales, distribution, and finance. In addition, she manages new media efforts for MTV.com and MTV Overdrive, a hybrid service available via broadband. Known as the turnaround queen for VH1, Norman was tapped by MTV to expand the network’s brand. If her success at VH1 is any measure, Norman should be a hit. Under her guidance, VH1’s prime-time ratings increased 80%.

RENETTA MCCANN CEO Starcom MediaVest Group Chicago, IL. Age: 47
Clout: McCann may stand only 5 feet tall, but she’s a giant in the media industry. As one of Starcom MediaVest Group’s advertising front-runners, the 28-year industry veteran is second to none when it comes to driving the bottom line and solidifying SMG as one of the world’s largest media planning and buying agencies.

Overseeing a staff of nearly 5,000 worldwide, McCann’s career highlights include landing the $600 million Walt Disney World account and maintaining the lowest employee turnover rate in the industry. When Starcom’s parent company, Paris-based Publicis Groupe Media, was shopping for a CEO to replace Jack Klues in October, McCann was an obvious choice.

Charged with ensuring Starcom’s continual success, she recently completed an estimated $400 million worth of services for Gillette, which Procter & Gamble acquired last year.

McCann joined Starcom in 1978 as a client service trainee and was integral to the launch of SMG as an independent entity back in 1998. Since 2004, she has held the CEO position for SMG’s Americas region, which includes the U.S., Canada, and Latin America. While she was CEO of SMG North America, BLACK ENTERPRISE saluted her efforts by naming her 2002 Corporate Executive of the Year.”I want to be recognized as a leader in my industry,” McCann said at that time. It wouldn’t be long before that recognition was gained.

VICKI R. PALMER Executive VP, Financial Services & Administration Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc. Atlanta, GA. Age: 52
Clout: As a member of the senior executive committee for Coca-Cola, Palmer oversees the treasury department, which manages the company’s $11 billion multicurrency debt portfolio and its $3 billion pension plan and 401(k) investments. She oversees internal audits, diversity initiatives and corporate affairs. In addition to working for the beverage giant, Palmer serves as a board trustee and secretary of Spelman College. She is also a board director of First Horizon National Corp., where she chairs the audit committee.

JOANN H. PRICE General Partner Fairview Capital Partners Farmington, CT. Age: 56
Clout: Price is a billion-dollar player in the private equity arena. As Fairview’s co-founder, she has helped propel the upstart into the No. 1 firm on the BE PRIVATE EQUITY list with $1.6 billion in capital under management. As a “fund of funds,” Fairview has participated in the investment of more than $600 million in more than 50 venture capital and private equity limited partnerships. In addition to serving on the advisory boards of New Vista Capital and Pacesetter Growth Fund, Price sits on the board of The Initiative for a Competitive Inner City and a number of civic organizations in the greater Hartford community.

VIKKI L. PRYOR President & CEO SBLI USA Mutual Life Insurance Co. Inc. New York, NY. Age: 52
Clout: When she joined SBLI USA in 1999, Pryor set out to give the 66-year-old company a much-needed makeover. She not only changed its focus but reversed more than 10 years of staggering losses. Today, she leads a company that boasts $17 billion in insurance, more than $1.5 billion in assets (including $120 million in surplus capital), and approximately 400,000 policyholders. Pryor guided the creation of a $12 million technological platform that transformed the company into a financial services firm with a leading-edge e-commerce strategy.

SYLVIA RHONE Executive VP Universal Records President Motown New York, NY. Age: 53
Clout: Rhone has the distinction of being the first African American woman to head a major record company. She is charged with rebuilding Motown’s roster. A 30-year industry veteran, Rhone brings an understanding of the creative community and extensive management experience to the position, having steered the careers of artists such as Yolanda Adams and Missy Elliott. In addition, Rhone sits on the boards of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the Studio Museum of Harlem, Jazz at Lincoln Center, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

DESIREE G. ROGERS Corporate SVP Peoples EnergyCorp. President Peoples Gas & North Shore Gas Chicago, IL. Age: 46
Clout: Rogers oversees field operations, customer service functions, and gas supply management for the $2.3 billion utility company. And she shows no signs of running out of steam. She completed a series of tough assignments while meeting the energy needs of Chicago residents and improving the company’sfinancials. She sits on the executive committee of The Museum of Science and Industry and is a board member of Equity Residential Properties Trust and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois.

CATHY D. ROSS SVP & CFO, FedEx Express FedEx Corp. Memphis, TN. Age: 48
Clout: Since 1984, Ross has played a significant role in securing the division’s position as the world’s largest express delivery service. Since 2004, Ross has managed the worldwide strategic and financial planning for FedEx Express operations, the subsidiary that operates in 52 countries and employs more than 140,000 workers. Last year, she increased the operating income to $19.5 billion, a 125% increase in just one year. She saved millions by creating the company’s first employee buyout program.

DEBRA A. SANDLER Worldwide President, McNeil Nutritional L.L.C. Johnson & Johnson Fort Washington, PA. Age: 45
Clout: Could Sandler’s job be any sweeter? As worldwide president, she oversees the development of Johnson & Johnson’s nutritional health products platform. In her position, she implements marketing strategies for products such as Viactiv and Lactaid, but she is best known for transforming Splenda into a best-selling sugar substitute. In 2004, Splenda generated about $187 million in retail sales, beating out Equal and Sweet’N Low. Even McDonald’s made Splenda its sweetener of choice.

INGRID SAUNDERS JONES SVP, Corporate External Affairs The Coca-Cola Co. Chairwoman The Coca-Cola Foundation Atlanta, GA. Age: 59
Clout: Saunders Jones directs The Coca-Cola Co.’s community, philanthropic, and civic affairs. For instance, as the bricks were laid for the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Saunders Jones persuaded Coca-Cola to donate $1 million. Under her leadership, the foundation has contributed $180 million in scholarships to minority students. She serves on the boards of Girls Inc., Clark Atlanta University, and the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University.

SUZANNE SHANK President & CEO Siebert Brandford Shank & Co. L.L.C. Oakland, CA. Age: 44
Clout: A founding partner and principal of the fifth-largest black-owned investment bank, which has $51 billion in total managed issues, Shank was one of the senior managers tapped by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to help facilitate an $880 million bond issue. In July, her firm became a major bond underwriter for Detroit Public Schools. That initiative, which issued $500 million of unlimited tax-refunding bonds, helped reform the district’s governing structure.

GWENDOLYN SMITH ILOANI Chairwoman, President, & CEO Smith Whiley & Co. Hartford, CT. Age: 46
Clout: Smith Iloani has proven that she can hold her own in the male-dominated investment industry. Her private equity firm ranks No. 4 on the BE PRIVATE EQUITY list with $222 million in capital under management. An investment industry veteran, Smith Iloani directs the firm’s investment advisory and asset management business and the investment and portfolio management activities. Prior to forming her own firm, she was a managing director at Aetna Inc. Smith Iloani sits on the board of New Samaritan Corp., which provides affordable housing in Connecticut.

PAULA SNEED Executive VP, Global Marketing Resources & Initiatives Kraft Foods Inc. Northfield, IL. Age: 58
Clout: A 28-yearveteran with Kraft, Sneed was part of a companywide initiative to thwart childhood obesity. In fact, all of the company’s advertising targeted to pre-teens now focuses on food products that meet nutritional guidelines. Sneed also oversees consumer strategy and promotions as well as packaging and design for more than 100 major brands. Sneed is a trustee of Teach for America, the Chicago Children’s Museum, and Simmons College.

PAMELA THOMAS-GRAHAM Group President Liz Claiborne Inc. New York, NY.
Age: 42
Clout: At Liz Claiborne’s helm since October, Thomas-Graham oversees the $1.3 billion women’s apparel label and manages a portfolio of brands, including Sigrid Olsen, Emma James, and Tapemeasure. Once the highest-ranking African American in the cable news industry, the former CNBC chairwoman operates a business twice the size of the TV network. She sits on the boards of Clorox and Idenix Pharmaceuticals and is a member of the Trustee’s Committee on Education at the Museum of Modern Art.

DENISE L. NAPPIER Treasurer State of Connecticut Hartford, CT. Age: 51
Clout: Nappier is a fire-brand when she attends shareholders’ meetings to do battle on behalf of the beneficiaries of the Connecticut Retirement Plans Trust Fund (CRPTF), the state pension fund. She gained a national reputation for her leadership in corporate governance issues and was among those shareholders who filed resolutions pushing for reform in corporate accounting practices in the wake of widespread abuses that led to the collapse of Enron, WorldCom, and others.

“Because so much of our pension fund assets are invested in the stock market, we have an obligation to vigorously exercise our proxy voting rights. So, everything I do in the area of corporate governance, I do it because I’m looking to protect and grow my investment in that company,” says Nappier, the first African American woman in the U.S. elected to serve as state treasurer. That’s good news for 160,000 teachers, state and municipal employees, and others who benefit from the academic programs, grants, and initiatives funded through CRPTF.

The Connecticut pension fund is one of the best performing public funds in the country and in the top third of public funds with assets exceeding $1 billion. Nappier is principal fiduciary of the $20 billion Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds and was the architect of wide-ranging and successful reforms to Connecticut’s system of pension fund governance.

Elected in 1998 and re-elected in 2002, Nappier says her No. 1 priority as treasurer is making sure the state is on sound financial footing, meaning the books are balanced, pension funds are secured, debt levels are managed, and investments achieve solid returns. In fact, she is credited with saving taxpayers and businesses millions of dollars through the state’s debt management program. Nappier also has invested money with black-owned private equity firms including Fairview Capital Partners Inc. (No. 1 on the BE PRIVATE EQUITY list with $1.6 billion om capital under management).

The Hartford native is treasurer of the National Association of State Treasurers and has received the Corporate Responsibility Leadership Award from Citizens for Economic Opportunity and thePaceSetter Award from the National Association of Investment Cos. 

TRACEY TRAVIS CFO & Senior VP of Finance Polo Ralph Lauren Corp. New York, NY. Age: 43
Clout: As CFO of the $3.3 billion apparel, accessories, and home furnishings company, Travis enjoys the perfect marriage between finance and fashion. She oversees corporate finance, financial planning and analysis, treasury, and tax and corporate compliance. The company comprises Polo, Lauren, Ralph Lauren, Chaps, and Club Monaco; operates about 275 retail stores in the U.S.; and licenses more than 100 others worldwide. Travis is affiliated with the Finance Executives Institute and the National Association of Corporate Directors.

CAROL H. WILLIAMS President, CEO & Chief Creative Officer Carol H. Williams Advertising Oakland, CA. Age: 58
Clout: The brand campaign for Secret deodorant, “Strong enough for a man but made for a woman,” was one of Williams’ most memorable. Today she creates ads for clients at her agency, Carol H. Williams Advertising (No. 2 on the BE ADVERTISING AGENCIES list with $350 million in billings). Her firm was named BE’s Advertising Agency of the Year in 1999 and 2004. Most recently, entertainer and CoverGirl spokeswoman Queen Latifah tapped the agency to market a cosmetics line for African American women.

OPRAH WINFREY Chairwoman Harpo Inc. Chicago, IL. Age: 52
Clout: Thrown into mainstream media’s pit in 1986, Winfrey’s appeal and vitality has never waned. Her assets are worth an estimated $1.3 billion. Winfrey is a living legend who spearheads business and humanitarian initiatives. Her company, Harpo Inc., ranks No. 14 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list with $275 million in revenues. A brand unto herself, Winfrey turns books into best-sellers through her book club, and O, The Oprah Magazine boasts some 13 million readers. As of November, the magazine brought in revenues of $214 million.

LISA W. PICKRUM Executive VP & COO RLJ Cos. L.L.C. Washington, DC. Age: 36
Clout: “Once you can influence decisions in the boardroom, you are a woman of power,” says Pickrum. She has significant experience when it comes to structuring and negotiating private equity and mergers and acquisitions. In her role at RLJ Cos., a diversified holding company with portfolio companies in financial services, hospitality, real estate, gaming, media, and entertainment, she is responsible for all the company’s legal matters, strategic partnerships, and new business developments.

A shrewd negotiator with a business and legal background, Pickrum spearheaded two critical deals. The first was the formation of RLJ Hedge Fund of Funds, an asset management company in partnership with Deutsche Bank’s Deutsche Asset Management unit that could potentially become the largest black-owned asset management company. She was one of the point people when RLJ teamed up with The Carlyle Group, a Washington, D.C.-based private equity firm with $35 billion in assets, to launch a fund designed to invest in media, business services, and financial companies. The fund plans to raise $500 million (see blackenterprise.com archives).

Pickrum earned her bachelor’s degree from Vassar College and her law degree from Stanford Law School. While at the Federal Communications Commission and Procter& Gamble, she made the decision to pursue her passion for numbers and enrolled in the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania to acquire a degree in finance and entrepreneurial management. In a male-dominated industry, Pickrum takes the no-holds-barred approach. “My personal style is to always try to be the best, which means exceeding the expectations. My style is focused on driving results, which is gender neutral,” she says. Outside the company she serves on the board of directors for Rollover Systems and CW Wellspring Entertainment. 

MARY A. WINSTON Executive VP & CFO Scholastic Corp. New York, NY. Age: 43
Clout: A financial wizard and 20-plus year industry veteran, Winston has had an impressive rise to her current position as CFO of Scholastic, publisher of the popular Harry Potter and Babysitter’s Club book series. Before joining Scholastic, Winston served as vice president and treasurer, and then vice president and controller, of Visteon Corp. Since she’s been with Scholastic, Winston has guided the company’s strategy to improve capital allocation, cash flow, and overall financial performance. In its 2005 fiscal year, Scholastic’s revenues were more than $2 billion, with an 11.2% increase in net income from the previous year.

JACQUELINE WOODS VP, Global Practices Oracle Corp. Redwood Shores, CA. Age: 43
Clout: Woods is a multimillion-dollar negotiator. Under her leadership, Oracle became the first major software company to publish comprehensive guidelines on its global software pricing and licensing via its Software Investment Guide. Woods drove Oracle’s e-business standardization initiative, yielding a savings of $1 billion over three years. She is also chairwoman of the company’s pricing committee for its global lines of businesses. Prior to joining Oracle, Woods was director of product management for Ameritech’s Customer Premise Equipment business, where she managed the P&L for a product portfolio valued at more than $600 million.

DEBORAH C. WRIGHT Chairwoman & CEO Carver Bancorp Inc. New York, NY. Age: 47
Clout: In 1999, Wright was advised not to accept the position of CEO and president of Carver Federal Savings Bank (No. 1 on the BE BANKS list with $616.4 million in assets), which was in danger of closing. After a few months in the seat, she says she understood the concerns of her advisers. Today she is chairwoman and CEO of the bank’s holding company, which has grown to include eight branches and 137 employees. With larger institutions aggressively consolidating, Wright’s strategy is to focus on servicing, educating, and building in developing black communities. She says, “Other banks focus all over the world. Our focus is right here at home.”

GWENDOLYN SYKES Chief Financial Officer NASA Washington, DC. Age: 40
Clout: President George W. Bush challenged NASA with a new mission: Visit Mars and journey farther into the final frontier. But before anyone can go where no man has gone before, CFO Sykes must approve it. “There are going to be a lot of financial challenges, a lot of dialogue with regards to the cost,” says Sykes. “Therefore, the CFO is definitely there at thetable in that transformation.”

Sykes, who was named CFO in 2002, oversees fiscal operations inside — and in connection with — the $16.5 billion space exploration program. In recent years, the Department of Treasury has been critical of the program’s accounting practices. After auditing NASA’s books, it found a $1.7 billion discrepancy. Sykes has been spending the last couple of years reconciling the program’s finances.

Under Sykes’ leadership, the entire agency converted to one accounting system, and all regional CFOs now report directly to her — sharing accountability. Although the books have yet to be balanced, Sykes has managed to close the gap from roughly $1.7 billion in 2003 to $46 million in 2005.

Reversing NASA’s finance woes, such as achieving its space initiatives, won’t happen overnight, but Sykes is confident it can be accomplished. “We are in the middle of a long process of transforming our financial management,” says Sykes of the magnitude of her department’s task. “Recognizing that financial management was going to be at the forefront of leading this charge for a new exploration vision, there needed to be some structure and some rigor as we moved forward in our processes.”