Celebrating Black History Month 2018
In honor of Black History Month, we’d like to recognize three individuals who have been innovators, trailblazers, and revolutionaries in American business. Each of them has had a significant impact on multiple Fortune 500 businesses, across a wide range of industries. Their stories show clearly the success that can come with determination and creativity.
As proud partners of Small Business Saturday, we’re especially pleased to recognize Kenneth Chenault. He was the CEO and Chairman of American Express from 2001 to 2017 — the third black CEO of a Fortune 500 company. A graduate of Harvard Law School, Chenault first joined American Express in 1981.
He has now joined Facebook’s board of directors, the first African American to serve on the social media giant’s board.
Chenau is also the chairman and a managing director of General Catalyst, and he serves on the boards of IBM, Procter & Gamble and non-profit groups including the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health and the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
In July 2009, Ursula Burns became CEO of Xerox, becoming the first African American female CEO of a Fortune 500 company. She’s the perfect story of a person starting at the bottom — she started as a summer intern with Xerox in 1980 — and working their way to the top. Shortly after becoming CEO, she purchased Applied Computer Sciences, the largest acquisition in Xerox’s history. In 2015, she helped generate $18 billion in revenue, and in 2017, after six years as Xerox CEO, she stepped down after the company split into two public companies: a $7 billion business process outsourcing company, and an $11 billion document technology company.
Burns is currently chairwoman of VEON, a senior advisor to Teneo, and will join the board of the beverage company Diageo.
Bozoma Saint John
Bozoma Saint John’s career path feels like a movie loaded with top-name guest stars and 5-star product placement. After graduating from Wesleyan University, Saint John worked at Spike Lee’s Spike DDB and at fashion brand Ashley Stewart, where she was Vice President of Marketing. Saint John was PepsiCo’s head of Music and Entertainment Marketing for almost a decade before Beats was purchased by Apple in 2014 — then she became the head of global consumer marketing for iTunes and Apple Music. After Saint John’s presentation of the redesigned Apple Music during the 2016 Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, Buzzfeed wrote that she was the “coolest” person to ever take the stage at an Apple keynote.
On June 6, 2017, Saint John became Chief Brand Officer at Uber. “I don’t think it’s up to one person [to save Uber],” she said in a recent CNN interview. “It’s not up to me. I’m gonna work my ass off to make sure that I am part of the solution.”