represents one of three female chief executives. “I think African American women have met the challenges of corporate America,” she says, “and absolutely there is no doubt that there will be an African American woman running a Fortune 500 company. It’s going to happen.”
Despite a corporate environment that is often inhospitable to black professionals, these top execs say the number of blacks residing in corner offices will continue to grow. “I think it’s extremely positive that we have a number of African American CEOs, presidents, and chief operating officers of major corporations as effective role models,” says Ronald A. Williams, president of the $17.9 billion Aetna Inc. “And it helps organizations focus on becoming more of a [meritocracy], where people can be judged on the basis of the value they create and not on the basis of their race or ethnicity.”
Paula Madison, president and general manager of Los Angeles-based KNBC and regional manager for two Telemundo stations, sums up her philosophy of the advancement of blacks, particularly women, quite simply: “The important thing is to continue getting us into the pipeline and have us positioned so that as more executive positions become available, we’re poised and ready to take advantage of the opportunities.”
To develop this year’s list, our research team spent several months contacting the 1,000 largest publiclytraded companies, international corporations, and leading professional associations. Our team pored over corporate documents and performed comprehensive research to identify candidates and review their credentials. Those featured on our list met the following criteria:
Each candidate had to be among the highest-ranking executives within his or her corporation. These men and women are either on the CEO track, run a major division that makes a significant contribution to the company’s revenues, or serve as officers on their company’s executive committees.
Each executive holds a senior management position at a publicly traded company or international corporation with gross revenues of at least $1 billion.
Each of the executives has revenue-generating or operating responsibilities, or holds a position critical to product development and the bottom line. None of the top executives have primary responsibility for staff functions in areas such as public affairs, human resources, or diversity.
Each person on our list has achieved the status of chief executive, president, general manager, executive vice president, senior vice president, or another top-ranking position with significant management responsibility and budget authority. Those executives holding the position of general counsel within their corporation were excluded from this list.
Each reports to the CEO, office of the CEO/chairman, COO, or the company’s board of directors.
Each has had significant influence in his or her company and industry.
–Additional reporting by Patrice D. Johnson, Carolyn M. Brown, Nkechi I. Olisemeka, Jamila Farwell, Hyacinth Carbon & Tykisha Lundy
Kenneth I. Chenault, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, American Express, Age: 53, Chenault has been running the executive management team of this $25.9 billion financial and travel services giant since early 2001. He recently oversaw a deal with credit card issuer MBNA Corp. to offer consumers American Express-branded credit