6 Women in Business We Look Up To
It’s no secret that Black women are severely underrepresented in leadership positions in business. Overcoming institutional and systemic bias, the lack of peer representation in advanced positions, day-to-day discrimination and micro-aggressions, and having less access to senior leadership makes the corporate climb for Black women challenging on every level: professionally, emotionally, and mentally. But these barriers don’t stop Black women and never have from persevering.
While they may be under-resourced, Black women make up the largest growing demographic of business owners. According to a 2018 report, Black women are the only ethnic group with more business ownership than their male peers. With grit and vision, Black women are creating some of the most innovative companies and are steering well-established companies into new places with their leadership. Here are six Black women in business who are inspirations to and embodiments of #blackgirlmagic.
1. Rosalind Brewer - CEO of Walgreens
Rosalind Brewer is a business powerhouse who’s held barrier-breaking roles at Starbucks, Walmart, and Sam’s Club, to name a few. Most recently, she made the news for breaking a glass ceiling and taking her career to an impressive new height: Brewer will become the CEO of Walgreens on March 15, 2021 and in doing so will be the only Black woman to lead a Fortune 500 company. She’ll be steering the ship as the company goes through a massive and important period of administering COVID vaccines to the public.
In a 2018 commencement address at her alma mater, HBCU Spelman College, she addressed her experiences challenging the status quo in business settings. “When you’re a black woman, you get mistaken a lot. You get mistaken as someone who could actually not have that top job. Sometimes you’re mistaken for kitchen help. Sometimes people assume you’re in the wrong place. And all I can think in the back of my head is ‘no, you’re in the wrong place.’”
Amen sister. We’ll be cheering Ros Brewer on as she steps into her new role at Walgreens.
2. Bozoma Saint John - CMO at Netflix
Bozoma Saint John is a badass. We’re not just saying that…she says it too in her Instagram handle @badassboz. And if you need any more proof that Bozoma is a fearless badass…she stepped into her Chief Brand Officer role at Uber in 2018 as the company was scandal-ridden and in the middle of facing a major sex-discrimination allegations. Prior to that, Bozoma made a name for herself in advertising at Spike Lee’s agency Spike DDB, Beats by Dre/Apple, and Pepsi. Now, Bozoma is the Chief Marketing Officer at streaming giant Netflix.
Her career has been studied by MBA students at Harvard and she recently launched a podcast with Katie Couric called Back to Biz with Katie and Boz that explores how CEOs and innovators are responding to shifts caused by COVID. Bozoma also curates The Badass Workshop, which helps women invest in themselves. On top of ALL THAT, Bozoma is a mother to 10 year old Lael.
3 & 4. KJ Miller & Amanda Johnson - Co-founders of Mented Cosmetics
Co-founders of Mented Cosmetics KJ Miller and Amanda Johnson met at Harvard Business School and knew they wanted to work together after they gradutated. Three years alter, they founded Mented, a cosmetics company that offers a diverse and inclusive product line for women of all skin tones to find colors that work for them. They started the company our of their own frustration of never being able to find a shade of nude lipstick that worked for them.
Recently, Miller and Johnson were named the 15th and 16th women of color to raise over $1 million for their business, breaking a barrier that’s difficult for anyone but especially women of color. And they didn’t just raise $1 million; Forbes reported that they raised $3 million in venture capital to fund Mented.
5. Arlan Hamilton - Founder, Backstage Capital
Arlan Hamilton has dedicated to her career to promoting and empowering women, LGBTQ, and people of color in business. When people think about venture capitalists, they often assume you need an MBA to get into that world, but Arlan taught herself about investing. In the process, she realized that the investors she was studying didn’t look like her and the businesses they invested in weren’t the companies being launched in her community.
Arlan persisted through homelessness, sleeping in cars or on couches or at the airport to create Backstage Capital, which is dedicated to funding companies founded by “underestimated” groups. She saw the discrepancy of venture funding between white men and black women, who receive only .2% of all venture capital, and she made it her mission to change that. She’s a true inspiration and a shrewd businesswoman who recognized that being perceived as an “outsider” allows her to do things her own way and write her own rules.
6. Morgan Debaun - Founder & CEO of Blavity
It’s not an overstatement to say that Morgan Debaun has transformed millennial Black culture. The 31 year old entrepreneur is the CEO and Co-Founder of Blavity, one of the largest media startups and lifestyle brands focused on Black millennials. After being the youngest student body president in the history of Washington University in St. Louis, Morgan created Blavity in 2014 as a trusted source of news, culture, entertainment, and community for Black millennials. Since 2014, Blavity has expanded and Morgan’s exceptional foresight as an entrepreneur and cultural guide have become even more clear. Her company acquired Travel Noire, a travel platform for Black millennials, as well as Shadow And Act, a Black entertainment news site. She also expanded into the world of beauty and launched M.Roze Essentials, a skincare company and lifestyle brand for Black women.