25 Influential Black Women in Business


(L. to r.) Lana Woods, The Lana Woods Gallery; Allyson Hugley, Weber Shandwick; Gennell Jefferson, GE Asset Management; Miko Branch, Miss Jessie’s; and Melissa James, Morgan Stanley.This year’s 25 Influential Black Women in Business Awards Luncheon coincides with the one-year anniversary of the landmark report “Black Women in the United States, 2014: Progress and Challenges,” developed and published by the Black Women’s Roundtable, an intergenerational network within the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation.


There is much to feel good about, particularly in education, a key building block for economic mobility. Not only has there been a significant uptick in the number of Black women obtaining degrees over the last decade, but Black women also outpace their male counterparts and other women in attaining college degrees. While all women lead their male counterparts in college enrollment and degree attainment, Black women do so at higher rates than any other group of women in the country. By 2010, Black women made up 66 percent of all Blacks completing a bachelor’s degree, 71 percent of them completing a master’s and 65 percent completing a doctorate. And in January, the National Center of Education Statistics, a unit of the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences, reported that Black women in the United Sates surpassed all groups in college entrance based upon race and gender, enrolling in college even more than Asian men.


Among other triumphs, our life expectancy continues to rise; we constitute the fastest-growing segment of the women-owned business market; and we vote at higher rates than all other women — in many cases being the key to winning the overall Black vote.


What good are all these triumphs, however, if we do not live well enough to enjoy them? We are being devastated by nutrition-related diseases, with higher rates of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and blood pressure than other demographic groups; we’re twice as likely to die of stroke before age 75; and we die of breast cancer at higher rates than women of other ethnic groups. True, there are heinous disparities in access to and administration of health care in our communities. But we, too, contribute to our shabby health tapestry. A U.S. Department of Agriculture survey found that 88 percent of African-Americans ate no dark green, leafy vegetables; and about 94 percent had no deep yellow vegetables on any given day of the survey. Most African-American adults fall short of the Recommended Dietary Allowances for vitamin E, vitamin B-6, calcium, magnesium and zinc. They also obtained about 35 percent of their calories from fat and 12 percent from saturated fat. To quote the Black Women’s Roundtable report, there is no more valuable asset in life than one’s health. “Black Women’s Health Still in Need of Urgent Care,” screams a heading in the report.


This is why, beginning this year, “TNJ” will urge its 25 Influential Black Women in Business honorees to be influencers of excellence in health.        — Rosalind McLymont

Profiles by Soroya Brantley, Toccara Castleman, Janelle Gordon, Paulana Lamonier, Marcia Reed Woodard and Bevolyn Williams-Harold.

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