(L. to r.) Keisha Vaughn, Draftcb Advertising Worldwide, New York City; Wanji Walcott, Esq., American Express, New York City; Donna Johnson, MasterCard Worldwide, Purchase, N.Y.; and Erika Irish Brown, Bank of America, New York City.From a Network Journal perspective, the country is awash in outstanding Black women leaders and influencers in every field, from public service, the corporate arena, industry and entrepreneurship to defense, academia and philanthropy. This is our perspective because every year for 15 consecutive years, including 2013, we have identified, profiled and celebrated 25 of these women. And these we chose from a field of hundreds.

 

Oh sure, we’ve seen and heard the dismal statistics and nay-statements: Black women hold a paltry 1.9 percent of board seats in the Fortune 500, compared to 12.7 percent for white women; Black women make up only 1 percent of corporate officers, at a time when 75 percent of corporate executives are publicly saying that having more minorities in senior positions enables innovation and better serves a diverse customer base; Black women face harsher criticism and penalties than other leaders when organizations fail; Black women aren’t physically attractive, etc., etc., etc. Our honorees have told us stories of high school guidance counselors who prodded them to reach for the bottom because they could never reach the stars. But over the years, in reading the bios and personal statements of the hundreds of women TNJ has recognized, this truth has remained constant: It is absolutely impossible to hold back the Black girl or woman who commits herself to excellence and success. If a particular arena tries to do so, she finds another arena in which to excel, attracting the inspiration, support and guidance to do so — sometimes from communities other than her own. Small wonder, then, that the U.S. Census Bureau recently reported that Black women are starting their own businesses at three to five times the rate of all businesses.

 

“Black women cannot wait for the economic condition of the country or the world to improve before they start to plot their strategy to ascend the ladder and assume positions of power and influence. Black women are weary of waiting for earned opportunities that are promised but go unfulfilled,” Sandra Finley, president and CEO of the League of Black Women, said last year in announcing the league’s annual conference, titled “Black Women 2012 New World Power: Bringing You the Global Leadership Power of Tomorrow’s Jobs Today.”

 

This year’s honorees represent outstanding achievement in academia, advertising, beauty / cosmetics / skincare / fragrances, brand management, construction, financial services, global business development, health and medicine, law, marketing, media, technology, tourism and utilities. We salute them all.

 

Click here to read the profiles of these women

 

Profiles by Toccara Castleman, Bernita Dorch, Renee Flagler, Janelle Gordon, Patrice Toombs and Bevolyn Williams-Harold

Photo by William Neuman

Dresses are from the b michael AMERICA RED ready-to-wear collection available in select Macy’s nationwide, except for Donna Johnson’s dress.