The end of African American female CEOs in corporate America came earlier this year when Ursula Burns and Rosalind Brewer stepped down from their roles running Fortune 500 companies. Burns officially stepped down as CEO of Xerox Corp. in January while Brewer left her position as the CEO of Sam’s Club in February. A black woman hasn’t been appointed as a CEO in corporate America since. Despite this bleak reality, overseas, there seems to be a very small semblance of light.
Late last month, British Petroleum (BP) named Priscillah Mabelane as the chief executive officer of BP Southern Africa (BPSA). This historic appointment makes her the first black female chief executive at BPSA, and the first woman and first black woman in the country’s oil industry to head a multinational company. Her role became effective as of Sept. 1, six years after she began serving as the CFO of BP’s South African leg in 2011.
“Given her proven track record in her previous executive roles, we are confident that Priscillah will be a strong leader for our business, especially as we continue to explore new areas of growth and development,” BPSA board chairperson Thandi Orleyn said in a statement, according to Face2Face Africa. Orleyn also praised Mabelane for bringing a “wealth of world-class experience and expertise” to her new role.
For the last 20 years, Mabelane, a chartered accountant by trade, established a stellar reputation as a business leader. Most recently, she served as Operations Director for BP’s UK retail business. She’s also held senior roles at Airports Company of South Africa, Ernst & Young, and Eskom, an electricity public utility company based in South Africa.
“Priscillah’s appointment reinforces BPSA’s pioneering role and strength of commitment to cultivating a diverse and inclusive workforce that will breed creativity and ensure we meet, even exceed customer expectations,” Orleyn said.
Mabelane, who grew up in Limpopo, a South African province bordering Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique, is taking over from outgoing chief executive, Daniel Odogwu.
Women make up half of BPSA executive team.