Black women around the world are stepping up to the helm of affairs in their respective professional fields and this is no mean feat. Be it sports, business or leadership, this list contains a few of the worlds most tenacious black women in a variety of industries.
Cynthia Marshall was the first black cheerleader at the University of California, Berkeley in the late 1970s. She spent nearly four decades climbing the corporate ladder at AT&T. As of 2020 she is the first black, female CEO in the NBA, having taken the helm at the Dallas Mavericks in 2018 to clean up the league’s toxic work culture. But Marshall, 60, says she didn’t truly come into her own until more than 20 years into her career.
Lisa W. Wardell
Lisa W. Wardell is chairman and CEO of Adtalem Global Education. Wardell was appointed chairman of the board in 2019. She has been president and CEO since 2016 and has been a member of Adtalem’s board of directors since 2008. She is the only African American female chairman and CEO in the S&P 400 Index. During her tenure, Wardell has overseen the strategic repositioning of Adtalem’s portfolio, successfully acquiring and integrating companies in Adtalem’s financial services vertical, and leading turnarounds and divestitures of Adtalem’s non-core assets. Under her leadership, gender and ethnic diversity has increased at the Adtalem board to 67%, and within Adtalem’s senior leadership to 75%. Wardell has also led the higher education sector in implementing new standards in transparency and financial literacy, and in cultivating quality partnerships to fill critical global workforce needs. Her strategic and mission-focused leadership positions Adtalem’s global community for sustainable success.
Nigeria’s female entrepreneur Nneka Ede has become the first African woman to own a European football club after she pulled off a deal last June enabling her to own the 108-year-old Lusitano Ginásio Clube that is participating in Campeonato de Portugal (the Portuguese third division).
In her own words after becoming the official owner of the club, Ede expressed her overwhelming excitement to start a new chapter with the club emphasizing the existence of a very deep and long-term sporting relationship between Nigeria and Portugal as she commented “I am excited about this opportunity and I hope that this new chapter will deepen the already great sporting relations between Nigeria and Portugal, continue with the rich history of Lusitano club and provide a pathway for young talent to develop and shine through.”
Priscillah Mabelane is a South African chartered accountant. She is known to be the first woman in the history of South Africa’s oil industry to head a multi-national company. In August 2017, she was appointed the Chief Executive Officer of BP Southern Africa, making her the first female to hold such a position.
Mabelane joined BP in 2011 and has served as Chief Financial Officer(CFO) until her appointment as CEO. Prior to that, she worked in a number of large South African companies serving in various roles, including Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA), where she served as CFO; Ernst & Young, where she served as a tax director; and Eskom, where she held various roles in finance, tax and general management. She is known to have recently served as Operations Director for BP’s UK retail business.
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