Shattering glass ceilings and building empires are all in a day's work for these intrepid women, whose gutsy moves in 2014 made us sit up and take notice.
In creating this year’s Power List, we set out to identify the trendsetters, heavy hitters, rainmakers and moguls who are directing the action and setting new courses in their respective fields. To do that, we interviewed industry insiders, researched top lists and culled recommendations from other high-ranking women to find out who they are mentoring and the people they admire. We also tapped leading organizations and trade groups to identify outstanding performers. The ten women featured have clout around the world and hold the purse strings to $10 million or more at their companies. They’ve also made great strides by leveraging new tools, such as social media, to expand their empires. Here’s what we can all learn from their successes.
Entertainment: Queen Latifah, 44, Co-CEO, Flavor Unit Entertainment, Actress, Singer and Style and Beauty Spokesperson
POWER POINTS: Ever since she burst onto the scene at the ripe age of 18, Queen Latifah has been a creative force in the entertainment indus- try. She’s gone from rapper to actress to producer to business titan, and her empire is composed of The Queen Latifah Show, which is gearing up for a second season this fall; an exclusive network deal with Centric and her company, Flavor Unit Entertainment, to bring new programming
to Black women; and a deal with HBO to star in and executive-produce a Bessie Smith biopic for the premium cable network. A serial entrepreneur, she understood her power early on: “I was one of those girls who didn’t want a man dictating to me what I should or shouldn’t do,” Latifah explains. “I wanted to be my own boss.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SAVVY: Queen is all over the social scene with more than 12 million Facebook and Twitter followers combined. Earlier this year, The Queen Latifah Show even partnered with SocialRank for a new campaign to reward her Twitter followers with prizes.
WISE WORDS: “I’ve learned to balance. If I can’t stand up on my own two feet because I’m exhausted, how can I do anything?” -Tanisha A. Sykes
Technology: Angela Benton, 33, Founder and CEO of NewME Accelerator
POWER POINTS: In 2011, Benton launched the NewME Accelerator, a San Francisco–based incubator for technology start-ups that helps minority and women entrepreneurs build thriving technology businesses around the world. Her portfolio of companies has raised $27 million in venture capital funding, and more than 300 start-ups in places such as the U.S., Brazil, China, Israel and Uganda, among others, have benefited. Recently, NewME expanded its 12-week residential boot camp in San Francisco to include an online virtual platform, allowing entrepreneurs from around the world to participate.
SOCIAL MEDIA SAVVY: There are more than 18,000 Twitter followers to accounts @BlackWeb20 and @NewMEAccel, where Benton shares inspiring stories of entrepreneurship, and offers small-business tips, resources and advice.
WISE WORDS: “One of the hardest decisions you’ll face is to pinpoint exactly what you want out of life. Once you do that, invest your time in developing a plan—but don’t get stuck there—and growing your network. Don’t forget to also invest in yourself along the way.” -LaToya M. Smith
Science: Shirley Ann Jackson, PH.D., 68, President, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
POWER POINTS: As president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the oldest technological research university in the United States, which has an operational budget of $383 million, Jackson helps mold and educate great high-tech minds of the future. She introduced New Polytechnic, a concept that embraces working across university, business and government to develop partnerships and conduct research. This technological innovation focuses on key challenges in energy security, health, water, food and national security. She was recently appointed by President Obama to the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board. Previously, she was on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Jackson also serves on the board of directors for such global companies as FedEx, IBM, Marathon Oil and Medtronic, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Royal Academy of Engineering in London and the U.S. Secretary of State’s International Security Advisory Board.
SOCIAL MEDIA SAVVY: Jackson ensures that the university communicates with the public through Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn, both internally and externally, to share faculty research.
WISE WORDS: “The formula is simple to articulate, but challenging to implement: Do for others, do not let others define you and always aim high.” -Leslie E. Royal
Automotive: Thasunda Duckett, 41, CEO, Chase Auto Finance
POWER POINTS: Duckett oversees a combined loan and lease portfolio of more than $57 billion and partnerships with 75 percent of all U.S.-franchised automotive dealers. Sales and operational and strategic activities of U.S.–based employees, as well as consumer lending professionals in the Philippines and India, also come within her purview. Under her leadership, Chase has reduced the response time for credit decisions, extended hours to correspond with the dealers, streamlined retail lending and rolled out new technology for dealers to submit loan requests. “Understanding our dealers’ needs and responding to those needs is our key to growth,” says Duckett.
SOCIAL MEDIA SAVVY: Duckett frequently contributes to an internal Women on the Move blog in which she tells her story and inspires 260,000 employees globally.
WISE WORDS: “Real success involves sacrifice, but being mindful of what you should never sacrifice—integrity, health, family and ability to treat others well—will bring you to the top.” -L.E.R.
Retail: Kathy Thornton-Bia, 48, President, Bang & Olufsen's North American division
POWER POINTS: Thornton-Bias joined Bang & Olufsen in March 2014, tasked with raising the Denmark-based consumer electronics innovator’s profile in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Previously, she snagged marquee designers for Saks Fifth Avenue as a vice-president. Prior to that, she more than doubled global sales in the shops of New York City’s Museum of Modern Art, whose ash registers rang up to $53 million by the end of her five-year tenure as chief of that institution’s retail division. Now, in addition to managing an approximately $27 million business, she’s adding Danish to her fluent Spanish, “passable” Portuguese and native English.
SOCIAL MEDIA SAVVY: When Bang & Olufsen launched a line of headphones with celebrity DJ Khaled, Thornton-Bias posed along- side Khaled for a selfie that reached more than 850,000 fans via Instagram.
WISE WORDS: “You can either surround yourself with people who tell you what you want to hear or those who tell you what you need to hear. Choose the latter.” -Katti Gray
Nonprofit: Helene D. Gayle, M.D., 59, President and CEO of CARE USA
POWER POINTS: As president and CEO of CARE USA, an international humanitarian organization, Gayle understands that power and influence are useless if we do not care for our brothers and sisters around the world. She oversees an operating budget of $500 million and manages 927 poverty-fighting programs in 87 countries. Under her direction, the institution relaunched the CARE Package, a parcel used to distribute aid to those in need.
SOCIAL MEDIA SAVVY: Gayle engages regularly on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to promote CARE’s work, as well as secure donations and matching funds.
WISE WORDS: “Great breakthroughs don’t happen when you’re halfhearted. They require people who are emotionally and intellectually invested. Never forget what motivated you to get to where you are.” -L.E.R.
Government: The Honorable Ladoris "Dot" Harris, 54, Director, The Office of Economic Impact and Diversity at the United States Department of Energy (DOE)
POWER POINTS: Nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate on March 29, 2012, Harris is the highest-ranking person of color at DOE, overseeing a budget of less than $10 million. She also serves on the White House Council on Women and Girls. In September 2013, Harris took the lead on the DOE’s Minorities in Energy Initiative—a program designed to engage more minorities in the energy sector through STEM education, economic development and climate change. More than 30 high-level ambassadors from industry, government, academia and nonprofits have been recruited since. And last May, Harris moderated a panel at the U.S.-Africa Energy Ministerial in Ethiopia focused on creating innovative partnerships and technical exchanges among HBCUs, African universities and businesses to address energy and development changes.
SOCIAL MEDIA SAVVY: Harris and her team use YouTube, Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook to educate historically underrepresented communities about energy resources available to them. They have reached more than 43 million viewers.
WISE WORDS: “Excellence is not a goal; it’s a way of life. Make excellence your brand by establishing a clear core competency, strategically expanding your professional network and making sure you deliver for your clients.” -L.M.S.
Advertising: Nadja Bellan-White, 46, CEO, Ogilvy & Mather Africa
POWER POINTS: Bellan-White has been charged with multiplying profits for Ogilvy and parent company WPP, which billed roughly $74 mil- lion for client services in 2013 alone. In August 2014, the native New Yorker started overseeing ad campaigns for governments, media houses, banks, and financial service, consumer products, tech and other companies in 20 nations where Ogilvy & Mather Africa has existing clients and is tapping new ones. She’s the first Black female CEO in the Nairobi, Kenya–based role.
SOCIAL MEDIA SAVVY: “Social media is used pervasively in everything we do. My entire team uses social media with all of our clients. And whenever I get a chance, I tweet something about the beauty of being in Africa right now.”
WISE WORDS: “Map out what you want your story to be and follow that. But don’t be so rigid that you can’t be open to change.”- K.G.
Finance: Tamika Langley Tremaglio, 44, Office Managing Principal and Market Leader for the Greater Washington Area, Deloitte Financial Advisory Services, LLP
POWER POINTS: As a forensic accountant, Tremaglio manages multiple client engagements that, in aggregate, reflect more than $10 million in revenue each year. She combines her accounting knowledge and investigative skills to identify white-collar crimes and corruption, and leads internal, external and international investigations of suspected improper and fraudulent behavior by employees, vendors, contractors, executive directors and trustees of not-for-profit organizations, institutions, foundations and estates.
SOCIAL MEDIA SAVVY: Analyzing information that is publicly available, Tremaglio makes use of social media mining to build profiles about the individual, company and/or organization under investigation.
WISE WORDS: "Find something you are passionate about—something that brings out the best in you and allows you to be your authentic self." -L.M.S.
Energy: Folorunso Alakija, 63, Executive Vice Chairman, Famfa Oil Limited; CEO, Digital Reality Print Limited; and Founder, The Rose of Sharon Foundation
POWER POINTS: One of the richest women in Africa, Alakija sits at the helm of her family business, Famfa Oil, one of Nigeria's most prolific oil-producing companies. With a personal net worth of $2.7 billion, the mogul, wife and mother of four runs a diversified business portfolio that includes a world-class printing business, Digital Reality Print Limited, and an impressive global real estate portfolio that spans the U.S., South America, Europe and Africa. In addition, she directs philanthropic endeavors through The Rose of Sharon Foundation.
SOCIAL MEDIA SAVVY: Alakija uses her social media accounts to mentor, empower and speak to the growing number of Black female entrepreneurs.
WISE WORDS: "It's in us already to manage our homes, raise our families and run big businesses. Once you discover your true calling, then whatever is worth doing is worth doing well." -Farai Gundan
The article was originally published in the November issue of ESSENCE magazine, on newsstands now.