Our country is a melting pot of different creeds, religions, ethnicities, and cultures. Throughout history, however, this melting pot has not been celebrated in positions of real leadership. African Americans in particular have been oppressed for so long that there have been very few reaching top positions of business and leadership. At the same time, however, African Americans today seem to be the most diverse when it comes to how they accrue wealth, and it seems that a change is finally coming. Let’s take a look at some of the most inspirational African American CEOs.
Oprah is the CEO of Harpo, the television network. She is America’s most loved and respected talk show host, but she is so much more than that. She is a lifestyle guru, philanthropist, satellite radio station owner, magazine owner, producer, actress, and book club president. Oprah comes from very humble beginnings. As a child, she had to wear potato sacks for dresses and was relentlessly taunted for her poverty. Today, she is the world’s strongest, wealthiest, and most influential woman and she revolutionizes everything she comes into contact with. Her support of Obama, for instance, is believed to have secured his 2008 election. Simply put: if Oprah likes something, then it is guaranteed to be a good thing.
- Kenneth Frazier
Many people say nothing good comes out of Penn State, but Kenneth Frazier is clearly the exception. He is Merck & Co.’s CEO and was the first African American to become CEO of a pharma company. Furthermore, he was also the second lawyer ever to become CEO of a pharma company. Kenneth is known to be a truly good guy, and a real master of innovation. Even to this day, he takes on pro bono legal cases. He was even able to get a man in Alabama, wrongfully accused and convicted, off death row. To pay for his studies at Penn State, he sold tadpoles and newts in a local aquarium. Today, he sells tetanus shots and birth control. This is a man who has made a difference!
- Ursula Burns
African Americans have had a rough deal, but none as much as African American women. They face three different challenges – the central employment challenge that everyone faces, their race, and their gender. Ursula grew up in New York City’s housing projects and she has defied the odds from being knee-high. In 2009, she became the CEO of Xerox, and she is now known as the world’s 14th most powerful woman. She has worked incredibly hard for everything that she has earned, starting as summer intern with Xerox in 1980 and single handedly saving it from bankruptcy. She is known for being reckless and fearless, with a passion for growth.
- Charles Phillips
Charles Phillips is the current Infor CEO. Under Charles Phillips Infor has seen tremendous growth, rising to the third largest company of its kind in the short time he has been there. Phillips is a man who knows it all, having worked in a variety of fields, and he is another one of the true good guys, philanthropically sharing his wealth wherever he can.