In the business world, Black women face the dual challenge of sexism and racism. In spite of these obstacles, a number of them have risen through the ranks and achieved success. Today, more than half of all female-owned businesses are led by women of color. Despite this, they brought in $422 billion in revenue compared with $1.4 trillion amassed by white women-owned businesses. According to one report, $981 billion in revenue and 4 million new jobs would be created if the average revenue of minority women-owned businesses equaled that of white women-owned businesses.
The Black Lives Matter movement has brought to the fore inequities that continue to hold back people of color in America today, hindering them from achieving their business goals and realizing their true potential. The movement actually started as a hashtag in 2012 following the death of Trayvon Martin, a Black 17-year-old who was shot and killed in Sanford, Florida. The movement gained momentum into 2016, when episodes of police brutality caught on camera were circulated by the mass media.
Racism continues to often deny ethnic minorities equality, freedom, dignity, and opportunities. In addition, racism can be overt and also incredibly subtle, manifesting itself in unconscious bias.
In this article, we look at three Black women who have risen to the top in their respective industries.
1. Maggie Holladay – Claude Home
After working for several leading magazines, Maggie Holladay decided to branch out on her own, founding Claude Home, a home and decor brand.
The online gallery specializes in works from contemporary artists all over the world, as well as furniture design and collectable vintage pieces. Claude Home helps its clients to source unique piece for their homes—whether it is something the retailer already has for sale or not—helping customers to find or create their dream piece.
Founded by Maggie Holladay in 2019, the company was the result of her love for classic design combined with a passion for vintage furniture.
A native of San Diego, California, Holladay relocated to New York City for her fashion career, working alongside some of the world’s greatest stylists and editorial teams. Having developed a curatorial eye for striking interiors and vintage furnishings, Maggie Holladay immersed herself in the world of interior design, selling original commissions, unique housewares, vintage ware, and furniture.
Today, the Claude Home website showcases dozens of unique pieces by new artists alongside an extensive collection of painstakingly restored mid-century modern furnishings by world famous designers.
2. Janice Bryant Howroyd – ActOne
Janice Bryant Howroyd started her employment staffing firm in 1978. At the outset, she had just $1,500, a phone, and a small office. Today, ActOne is America’s largest minority- and woman-owned workforce management company with more than 70 branches nationwide. The agency currently employs more than 2,600 people, serves over 17,000 clients, and operates in 19 countries worldwide.
Mrs. Howard also co-owns several dozen properties with her family, including residential properties, rental properties, and commercial premises.
In an interview with Forbes, Janice Bryant Howroyd acknowledged that she did not have a lot of the things that many people have when starting their own business, but she did have intelligence. She explained that this was actually quite liberating. After all, if you do not have something, you cannot be afraid that you will lose it.
Janice Bryant Howroyd was chosen as a White House appointee by former President Barack Obama. She continues to fulfill that role under the current administration, serving as an Ambassador of Energy. A keen philanthropist, Howroyd gives generously to a variety of different causes, with a particular focus on STEM education programs for women and minorities.
As of October 2020, Janice Bryant Howroyd and her family had a reported net worth of $285 million.
3. Rosalind Brewer – Walgreens Boots Alliance
Formerly the chief operating officer of Starbucks Corp., Rosalind Brewer was appointed as Walgreens’ CEO in March 2021, making history as the first African American woman to head up a Fortune 500 Company.
Rosalind Brewer started her career as a scientist at Kimberly-Clark. During her 22 years with the company, she rose through the ranks, becoming president of the Nonwovens Sector in 2004. Brewer subsequently joined Walmart, serving as president of Walmart East from 2012 to 2017, before leaving the company to join Starbucks.
Having earned a strong reputation for her fierce work ethic, the innovative executive is poised to overhaul the content and layout of Walgreens stores across the nation. Speaking about the appointment, Ms. Brewer said she was excited to work alongside the Walgreens Boots Alliance team to undertake innovation and to have a positive impact on millions of people all over the world. Rosalind Brewer maintains a dedication to inspiring other women and members of ethnic minorities to achieve success.