Trailblazing African American Businesswomen
Black Enterprise magazine Fall 2019 issue

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Sylvia Rhone
1994 Rhone’s appointment as chairman and CEO of the Elektra Entertainment Group establishes her as the only African American and the first woman in the recording industry to attain the dual title. She is named president of Motown Records in 2004 and president of Universal Motown Records in 2006, overseeing an artist roster that includes Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Drake, and Erykah Badu.

Debra L. Lee
1996 Lee is named president and COO of BET Holdings Inc., replacing departing founder, Robert L. Johnson. She has been executive vice president, general counsel, and, as of 2005, CEO at the African American-targeted network that reaches 90 million viewers. Lee is the highest-ranking African American woman at Viacom Inc., BET’s parent company after its acquisition in 2000.

Pamela Thomas-Graham
1996 Graham becomes a partner in the world’s largest management consulting firm, McKinsey & Co.  In 2001, she’s named CEO and president of CNBC, establishing her as the highest-ranking African American in the cable news industry. In 2010 she joins Credit Suisse AG and its executive board as head of talent, branding, and communications.

Myrtle Stephens Potter
1998 Potter is named president of Bristol Myers Squibb’s $3 billion Cardiovascular/Metabolics unit, making her the first black woman to head a division of a major pharmaceutical company. In 2000, she becomes COO and executive vice president of commercial operations of Genentech, one of the leading biotechnology companies in the world.

Brenda J. Gaines
1999 Gaines is named president and CEO of Diners Club North America, the $30 billion Citigroup subsidiary, with more than 1 million cards in circulation.

Renetta McCann
2004 McCann becomes CEO of Starcom Americas, one of the largest media agencies in the world.

Sheila C. Johnson
2005 BET’s co-founder buys ownership in the WNBA’s Washington Mystics basketball team where she serves as vice chairman, president, and managing partner. Johnson makes history as the first African American woman to be an owner or partner in three professional sports franchises: the other two are the Washington Capitals (NHL) and the Washington Wizards (NBA).

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