There are a lot of negatives associated with the word "Black" when asked, "what does it stand for?". For a very long period, people of colour and the black community have been misunderstood to a point that they at times feel apologetic for being black. There is a lot of frustration with the violence, racism, and underrepresentation faced by people of the Black race simply because they are Black.
There are powerful leaders like Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Martin Luther King Jr. and many more from the black community who, even when faced with struggles, barriers, misconceptions, racism and other problems have continued to show what it means to be black and proud.
Their work and identity reflect and continue to empower the community and give them the representation that is needed. Let's look at the top black CEOs of America. These powerful people have shattered barriers and created role models for people of colour to look up to.
Lack of Representation of Black CEOs
It is the 21st century and discrimination still persists. In general, black people are not promoted to leadership positions as often as others are. Only four CEOs Roz Brewer, Thasunda Brown Duckett, Marvin Ellison and René Jones made it to the list of leading Fortune 500 companies in the year 2021. One of the most talked-about CEO this year Elon Musk's Tesla was ranked at the 100 in 2021.
We have curated a list of the black CEOs that have been successful in leading some of the top organizations working in industries as diverse as healthcare to consumer goods. Besides rescuing businesses that had their heads above water in diverse industries, these leaders have created space for inspiration for their community in the USA.
Here's a list of the top 10 Black CEOs in America
1. Muhga Eltigani
Founder & CEO: NaturAll Club
Headquartered in: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Term: 2015 – Present
Industry: Consumer Goods
Being excited about how women are leading from different dynamics and emerging as leaders in today's society, Mugha said:
I want to be a part of that. And I want to give back.
Her passion for helping the community love and inspire itself is one of the things that drives her to keep at it. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations; African Studies, and Religious Studies, Muhga Eltigani is a Founder/Chief Executive Officer at NaturAll Club.
NaturAll provides a subscription-based service that aims at promoting clean beauty standards with hair products that are freshly made using ingredients such as avocados, bananas and coconut crème. These ingredients are found to help hair become healthier. The products can be customized according to the person's hair care needs.
Having a conflicting relationship with her hair, she was inspired by the homemade products of African women while interning in Ghana and visiting family in Sudan. Mugha began experimenting with natural ingredients in her own hair when she decided to embrace the idea, and later shared these recipes on her YouTube channel.
Let go of her law school, making the move to build a startup with co-founder Sam Roberts, pooling in her own personal savings for the NaturAll Club. She has been an active member of various societies including Sphinx Senior Society, Onyx Honor Society and Sigma Loto Rho.
Achievements of Muhga Eltigani
Eltigani has been honoured by Forbes 30 Under 30, Inc. Magazine's 30 Under 30 in Business, Business Insider, and Essence and received awards that include:
- Stephen Wise Award (Office of the Chaplain at Univ. Of Pennsylvania—April 2014)
- Human Rights Award (Jubilee School – May 2014)
- Sigma Iota Rho (International Relations Honor Society)
- Black Alumni Association Student Leadership Award (University of Pennsylvania, April 2014) (Academic Year 2012-2013; Summer 2013) Sphinx Senior Society
- Foreign Language and Area Studies Award
- Onyx Senior Honor Society
2. Oprah Winfrey
CEO: Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN)
Headquartered in: Los Angeles, California
Term: 2011 – Present
The biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams - Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey has achieved it all, from writing a book to hosting her own talk show. She is an actress, producer, publisher, innovator and philanthropist. But just in case it escaped your notice, she is also the CEO of the successful cable network Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN).
OWN is a joint venture between Harpo, Inc. and Discovery Communications. It was available in 85 million homes when it launched on January 1, 2011. Inspired by the iconic leader herself, she attracts superstar talent to join her in prime time, building a global community of like-minded viewers and leading that community to connect on social media and beyond.
According to a Forbes report for 2020, it was estimated to be 37 million. The net worth of Oprah Winfrey as of 2022 is 3.5 billion dollars.
The global media leader has been involved in various activities, volunteering for the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation and Angel Network.
Achievements of Oprah Winfrey
Oprah has received the following awards for her work:
- Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress: The Color Purple: Nominated (1986)
- Won Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 2011.
- Was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.
- Academy Award for Best Picture: Selma: Nominated (2015)
3. Dr Tony Coles
President, Chairman, and CEO: Cerevel Therapeutics
Headquartered in: Cambridge Massachusetts
Term: 2018 – Present
Industry: Pharmaceutical manufacturing
Dr Tony Coles is the CEO of Cerevel Therapeutics. He has also worked for the following organizations in the past as the CEO:
- Ex-CEO of TRATE Enterprises, LLC
- Ex-CEO of Yumanity Therapeutics
- Ex-CEO of Onyx Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
- Ex-CEO NPS Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Dr Tony Coles has earned the following degrees:
- B.S. degree from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland
- M.S. degree in public health from Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts
- And his M.D. degree from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.
Before working for Cereval Therapeutics Dr. Cole has also worked with, ACE inhibitor drugs, LLC, Merck & Co., Onyx Pharmaceuticals, TRATE Enterprises, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, and Yumanity Therapeutics.
Cerevel Therapeutics operates as a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company, which was formed through a partnership with Pfizer and Bain Capital in the year 2018. The company incorporates an understanding of the biology and neuro circuitry of the brain with advanced chemistry and central nervous system (CNS) receptor pharmacology. To help discover and develop novel therapies focusing on neuroscience diseases. The pharmaceutical manufacturing company has its funding from Crunchbase itself.
Tony Coles is an active member of multiple communities and national organizations, such as:
- The board of trustees at Johns Hopkins University and Johns Hopkins Medicine
- NPS Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
- The Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture
- The board of trustees for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Council of Foreign Relations.
Tony Coles is a director at:
- Campus Crest Communities, Inc.
- Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings
- McKesson Corporation, and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
- Paralympic Foundation
- The U.S. Olympic
4. Robyn Rihanna Fenty
Founder and CEO: Fenty Beauty and Clara Lionel Foundation
Headquartered in: San Francisco, California
Term: 2017 – Present
"It’s important for me to know who I am. There’s no way for people to know me." - Robyn Rihanna Fenty
Born in Barbados in 1998 Rihanna has a history of a rough past with her parents' divorce. In her teens, she enjoyed making music with her classmates and was eventually introduced to record producer Evan Rogers by her friends.
Travelling to Connecticut to work on her four-song demo album that included "Pon de replay" which later became her first hit single. Impressed with her singing skills Jay - Z collaborated with her on one of her other albums Music of the Sun which became platinum. Since her career took off Rihanna has been on a successful journey. She is an actress, a singer, a businesswoman and a mom.
The makeup line that was launched by the fashion, music and beauty icon: Fenty Beauty is very well known. Riris' cosmetic brand was launched with the aim of inclusivity inspired by her personal style, which has made her a billionaire. Rihanna is the founder and CEO of Fenty Beauty.
Since the launch of the brand, it has become a label for disruption of the market and expansion into other domains as well through collaborations. This includes Fenty Beauty, Fenty Skin, Savage × Fenty.
She has also been involved in charity work. She started to honour her grandparents, and she is the founder of the Clara Lionel Foundation which supports health and emergency response programs and effective education around the world. One of her most recent investments includes Destree.
Achievements of Rihanna Fenty:
- Being listed as one of the Top 100 Most Influential People by Time magazine.
- Became the Creative Director for the brand Puma in 2014.
- Winning 9 Grammys, 12 Billboard Awards, and two BRIT Awards.
- Expanding her brand from Fenty Beauty, Savage × Fenty, and Fenty Skincare.
5. Marvin Ellison
Chairman, President & CEO: Lowe's
Headquartered in: Mooresville, North Carolina
Term: 2018 – Present
"One of our core behaviors is to show courage, and I ask you to demonstrate that by raising opportunities that need to be addressed." -
Lowe's continues to fulfil its commitment to improving the homes and businesses of homeowners, renters, and professionals. It has grown from a small-town hardware store to one of the largest home improvement retailers around the globe. The company has more than 2,200 stores and approximately 300,000 workers in the USA and Canada and generated revenue of $96.3 billion in 2021.
Before joining Lowe's Marvin served as chairman and CEO of J.C. Penney Co. He is also the first African American to be President and CEO of two Fortune 500 companies.
His early life was marked by poverty and the limitations of living in rural and impoverished conditions. Despite these challenges, he majored in business at the University of Memphis. Juggling odd jobs, he managed to pay for his tuition fees.
Graduating with a Business Administration degree in Marketing and later earned his MBA at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. He built his career in retail. He has worked for Target, Home Depot, Global Logistics, and JCPenney.
After leaving JCPenney, he joined Lowe's and became CEO in 2018. The result of his leadership was an increase in the stock price of the company and its ranking on the Fortune 500 list of America's 500 largest corporations by revenue.
The committees Marvin is a member of:
- FedEx Corporation, Board Member
- Retail Industry Leaders Association, Board Member
- The University of Memphis, Board of Trustees
- The Business Council
Marvin with his wife Sharyn is committed to serving within their faith and communities. Mainly through the support of organizations that promote higher education, self-empowerment and excellence for minority youth.
6. Ursula Burns
Former CEO: Xerox Holdings
Headquartered in: Norwalk, Connecticut
Term: 2009 – 2017
Industry: Information technologies and services
“Dreams do come true, but not without the help of others, a good education, a strong work ethic, and the courage to lean in" - Ursula Burns
Known as among the first black women to be a CEO and succeed as the head of a Fortune 500 company. Born in New York and raised in a low-income housing project in Manhattan Ursula was raised by a single mother.
She obtained a bachelor of science degree in the field of Mechanical Engineering from the Polytechnic Institute of New York University in Brooklyn and a Master of Science from Columbia University. She joined Xerox as a summer mechanical engineering intern and later became a full-time employee there.
She was appointed as the CEO of Xerox Holdings in the year 2010. She led the company to success, turning it into a valuable business. In 2015 the company generated $18 billion in revenue. She stepped down from the position of the company after Xerox was split into two publicly traded companies: Conduent and a newly created Xerox.
Xerox Holdings Corporation is a holding company. The Company provides printers, scanners, supplies, and accessories through its subsidiaries. The company also serves the health care, insurance, government, and retail sectors across the globe. Xerox had previously focused only on document technology, for which Ursula was named as chairwoman, a $1 billion division.
Achievements of Ursula Burns:
- Serving as Chairwoman of VEON in 2017
- Being the first African-American woman to lead an S&P 500 company.
- Being a founding member of Change the Equation, a CEO-led non-profit program to boost STEM education in 2010 that was launched by the Obama administration.
- Being a member of the Uber board of directors.
7. Don Thompson
Former CEO: McDonald's
CEO: Cleveland Avenue
Headquartered in: Chicago, Illinois
Term: 2015 – Present
Born in 1963, Chicago Don Thompson paved the way for the many firsts in the history of McDonald's for the black community. He pursued a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Purdue University in Indiana. Graduated with a defence systems job as an engineering specialist with the Northrop Corporation in the Chicago suburb of Rolling Meadows.
Starting as a robotics engineer at McDonald's he worked for the company for twenty-three years. As he was promoted, he also became the first Senior Vice President and Restaurant Support Officer for the company in the Midwest division. As a CEO, the job definitely came with many challenges as it required constant travelling for him.
He developed innovations for the global market during his time as an executive. He made impressive changes overseeing the menu that was curated based on local markets, field operations, and more. As a result, the company's improvement rate and success increased. Thompson served as the CEO of the world's fastest-growing food chain: McDonald's globally for five years, which made history.
MC Donald's is the place that truly stands for food, folks and fun where you can unwind and spend some quality time with your loved ones over food. Be it for birthdays or breakfast, MC Donald's has become the go-to place for people of all age groups.
Quoting on what it felt like being the CEO: Thompson admitted that he had not given much thought to the question of what it would be like to be the CEO of McDonald's, but nevertheless grabbed the opportunity when offered the role not just for his benefit, "but for those who look like us and came up like us".
Don Thompson served on the Board of Directors for the following companies:
McDonald's Corporation, Ronald McDonald House Charities, Catalyst, Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Purdue University
Don Thompson is a member of the following organizations:
- The Civic Committee of the Commercial Club
- The Economic Club
- World Business Chicago
- and the Brazier Foundation
Achievements of Don Thompson
- He was the first black CEO at McDonald's in almost a century of history.
- He has been listed as Black Enterprise's 2007 Corporate Executive of the Year.
- One of BLACK ENTERPRISE's 100 Most Powerful Executives in Corporate America.
After quitting his job, he still continues to engage himself in different initiatives to empower the black community. Thompson currently is the CEO of Cleveland Avenue Foundation for Education (The CAFE) which he founded in 2014 with his wife Liz Thompson with the goal of bringing equity to the black community and breaking racial barriers. Currently, he lives with his wife Elizabeth and two children near Chicago Land.
8. Mary Winston
Former CEO: Bed Bath & Beyond
Term: 7 months
Headquartered in: New Jersey, New York
Winston is a well-respected leader who has served as an EVP & chief financial officer for a large fortune 300 retailer, as well as two other large companies, leading sizable financial organizations for years on large public company boards and audit committees for many years.
She is also the first black woman to head a Fortune 500 company after Ursula Burns and is listed as one of the most powerful women in corporate America.
Winston has extensive experience in all aspects of finance and accounting, as well as M&A, organizational strategy, cost restructuring programs, corporate governance/ compliance, and investor relations/communications.
This e-commerce business dealing with retail has a wide range of categories some of which include: bedding, bath, kitchen, dining, storage and cleaning and much more. Aiming at one goal: making people feel at home. In addition to this, the company fosters a culture that is diverse and equity-based, as well as customer-centric.
The corporate and retail industries are now the only industries that she has experience with; the others include retail, publishing/media, manufacturing and pharma.
Her public boards and memberships include:
- Acuity Brands, Inc.
- Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc.
- Dover Corporation
Achievements of Winston
- Corporate Directors to Watch, Issued by Directors & Boards Magazine—Jan 2017
- Most Powerful Corporate Directors Issued by Savoy Magazine, January 2016
- Most Powerful Women in Business in 2015, 2010, 2006
9. Ted W Love
CEO: Global Blood Therapeutics
Headquartered in: South San Francisco, California
Term: 2014 – Present
Ted Love is the president and CEO of Global Blood Therapeutics. Earned his B.A. in molecular biology from Haverford College and an M.D. from Yale Medical School. He completed his residency and fellowship training in internal medicine and cardiology at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. He later served as a faculty member in the department of cardiology there.
Global Blood Therapeutics has a history of ten years of remaining committed to its goal of changing the paradigm of how SCD (sickle cell disease) is treated. They develop and create treatments for people living with blood-based disorders, starting with sickle cell disease. GBT has also developed the first drug that was approved by the FDA targeting the underlying cause of sickle cell disease rather than just its symptoms.
He has held a variety of positions in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries.
- President, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of Directors at the Nuvelo
- Served as Senior Vice President of Development at Theravance Inc.
- Worked at Genentech, Inc. holding several senior management positions
- Chairman of Genentech's Product Development Committee
He has been on the following boards:
- Bio-Rad Laboratories, Inc.
- Predix Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
- Santarus, Inc.
- Affymax, Inc.
- ARCA biopharma, Inc.
- The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) Independent Citizens' Oversight Committee)
10. Toni Newman
CEO: Black AIDS Institute
Headquartered in: Los Angeles
Term: 2021 – Present
She has earned her identity and is proud of it, facing challenges like finding herself in a world where she fought to earn it. Despite losing her family and friends' support, employment and shelter. Toni still found the courage to continue to seek the path that was right for her. The estimated Net Worth of Toni Newman is $1 million dollars.
Toni Newman is a member of the African American transgender community. Born in North Carolina, she earned her BA degree in sociology from Wake Forest University and has been studying at the ALU School of Law, a current candidate for her Juris Doctorate (JD).
Toni Newman is also the author of the best-selling memoir I Rise-The Transformation of Toni Newman, which has been nominated for two Lambda literary awards in the categories of memoirs and transgender non-fiction. Which was also adapted into a feature film with the title "The Heart of a Woman"
Committed to ending the HIV epidemic formerly known as the African American AIDS Policy Training Institute. It was founded by Phil Willson in 1999. Black Aids Institute is a national non-profit organization making people aware and ending HIV in black America while engaging and working with black institutions and leaders.
Newman has experience working in:
- Chair Of the Board of Directors for TransCanWork, Inc
- Faculty Member at Transgender Strategy Center
- Co-Founder/CEO at SPI Productions LLC
- Interim Director of Employment Services at SF LGBT Center
- Executive Director at JAMES ST. JAMES INFIRMARY
- Development Director at Maitri compassionate care
- Fundraiser/ legislative assistant at Equality California
- Interim Director of Development and Communication at T.H.E. (To Help Everyone) Health and Wellness Centers
- Interim Executive Director/President at LYRIC
Overcoming barriers, shattering stereotypes and paving the way for future generations. They have proven what they bring to the table and what they can do to create change, as black CEOs with the power to lead. All the while giving back to their communities will drive success at some of the most successful organizations in America.
Which company has black CEO?
Some of the companies that have black CEOs are:
- Craig Arnold, Eaton
- Rosalind 'Roz' Brewer, Walgreens Boots Alliance
- Thasunda Brown Duckett, TIAA
- Marvin Ellison, Lowe's
- Janice Bryant Howroyd, ActOne
- Paul Mola, Roswell Biotechnologies
- Toni Newman, Black AIDS Institute
Who was the first black woman CEO?
Ursula Burns was the first black woman CEO. She became the CEO of Xerox in 2009.
Who was the first black CEO?
Clifton R.Wharton, Jr. was the first black CEO of TIAA-CREF he took the charge of the company in 1987.