ESSENCE CEO Caroline Wanga Rings The NYSE Closing Bell Alongside Diversity Woman’s Elite 100
Caroline Wanga (left), Essence CEO, and Dr Sheila Robinson, Publisher & CEO Diversity Woman Media

On Tuesday, March 14, Black women executives, board chairs, and CEOs gathered at the New York Stock Exchange to collectively ring the closing bell on the financial center of the world.

Recognized this year as members of the Elite 100, an annual list compiled by Diversity Woman magazine, the women arrived dressed to the nines to mark their name in the book of bell-ringers. The second annual iteration of the list honors Black women in the C-suite and executive leaders at Fortune 500 companies, with ESSENCE’s very own CEO Caroline Wanga named among the honored.

The moment gave an even bigger sense of accomplishment to founder, Publisher, and CEO of Diversity Woman Media Dr. Sheila Robinson, who has made the list in service too and celebration of high-ranking women in the corporate world for the past two years, and counting.

“We are creating visibility for Black women who have been invisible to corporate America for so long,” Robinson said of the Elite 100. “There are people saying that they can’t find Black women. When they’re asked ‘why are there only two Black CEO Women in Fortune 500 Companies and more Black Women on boards?’ the response is because we can’t find them. So we’re going to change that. Here they are. Here’s 200 right here. And we’ll add another hundred every year.”

“I think I underestimated how meaningful it would be,” Wanga said of the bell-ringing. “I think the most impactful moment for me was the signing of the book. Because we know when this place started in 1792, it was a different time for Black women.”

“That’s why I said to Sheila, ‘you better sign your name. Your ancestors need your name to be in there.’ I think between that and being able to tag the wall, I have a different reverence for how big the moment is. And I already thought it was a big deal,” she continued. “I am honored from a historical perspective, and I feel obligated to make sure that this doesn’t become a once in a while thing. That we have enough people to make sure that we can do this every day if we want to.”

Wanga’s closing remarks at the bell-ringing reception, in which she noted the importance of celebrating and uplifting Black women no matter what point of life they’re in personally or professionally, left the crowd excited and delivering a standing ovation.

“We will continue to believe the Black woman is the CEO of her community and culture, and she ought to be engaged with and addressed in the same way you would the CEO of any other company,” she said. “It means that you believe that when thirty some odd of us are gathered at the US Stock Exchange, we also have the power to change stock prices.”

The afternoon was a humbling, yet motivational moment for all the boss-ladies in attendance, and a particular signal to Robinson that her mission is on the right track.

“During Women’s History Month, we made history. We continue to make history. We’re doing this not only for ourselves but for our daughters that follow us,” Robinson added. “We need to continue to highlight all of this excellence in leadership. I have a vision that one day we’re going to have thousands of Black women executives.”