50 most powerful black women in business: from the executive suite to the BE 100s, these dynamos are changing the direction of American business.

Author:Brown, Carolyn M.
Position:Cover story

POWER. WHAT IS IT AND WHO HAS IT? CORPORATE muscle is defined by an executive's ability to have some bearing on the direction of a company. "There may be different degrees, but if you can influence decision making at a company, that is power," says Jerri DeVard, senior vice president of marketing and brand management at the telecom giant Verizon. "You can give your input, but that's not influence. You have to have the ability to impact the actual outcome. Power is the result of influence."

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 the following pages 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 ladder and 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.


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.



Act 1 Group

Torrance, CA

Age: 55

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.


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.


Global Head of Operations

Citigroup Realty Services

New York, NY

Age: 37

Clout: Chapman manages the day-today 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.


Head of North American Hedge Fund Distribution, Fixed Income, Currencies &


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.


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.


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.


Senior VP, Brand Management & Marketing


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 African American Advisory Board.

--Carolyn M. Brown


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...

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