Let’s talk about Black women and leadership

July 28, 2021, 9:45 AM UTC

Good morning,

Leadership is a topic that I not only have the great opportunity to write about but one I continually reflect upon, personally. What will the road to leadership look like for me?

Black women can perform the pivotal roles of leaders and visionaries but are often left out of the leadership equation, Tynesha McHarris, co-founder of the Black Feminist Fund (BFF), said. At the Fortune Connect Summit virtual event on radical collaboration, I moderated a panel discussion titled, How (and why) to center Black Women. Thought leaders shared their perspective on why women of color around the world are disproportionately excluded from power. 

“Black women have consistently modeled what it means to be in collective leadership,” McHarris said. BFF, an organization with a global perspective, officially launched this past March with a $15 million seed investment from the Ford Foundation. “When you think about Black movements around the world, in Sudan, Nigeria, and in the U.S.,” they are led by a collective of Black women and Black non-binary people, she said.

“I’m on the side of actually handing out the philanthropic capital to women and girls of color,” said Ada Williams Prince, senior adviser for program strategy and investment at Pivotal Ventures, founded by Melinda French Gates. “What we found in the investment strategy that was built is: women and girls of color need to be visible. We need to get capital to support and invest in their leadership.”

When it comes to advancing Black women in leadership roles, there’s more work to be done, McHarris said. “We have a history of kind of believing in Black women’s labor but never believing their leadership requires investment and pouring into their development,” she said. “How are we investing in Black women’s strategic thinking and brilliance?”

When looking at corporate America, women of color are underrepresented in leadership roles, including in the financial sector, as reflected in studies over the years, such as a 2018 McKinsey report. In 2021, two Black women are running Fortune 500 businesses. Roz Brewer is the CEO at Walgreens Boots Alliance, and Thasunda Brown Duckett, the CEO at TIAA. Duckett is known for being an advocate for diversity within the financial services industry. 

For some, the lack of leadership diversity in the field can be isolating. Cecilia Owens, CFO and chief operating officer at Grandview, a privately held entertainment management and production firm, spoke with me in May about not encountering many Black women in CFO roles. “I cannot tell you how hard or how challenging it is to want to see someone who looks like me in a CFO role and not being able to find that,” Owens said. 

So, how can organizations advance Black women into leadership roles? Within the executive coaching and mentoring space, “there should be a plethora of different types of coaches,” Williams Prince said. “It is very important that people have a way to be represented,” she said.

“There shouldn’t be just one leadership role in which Black women get moved into,” McHarris said. “There should be multiple pipelines of leadership.” A support system should be in place as well, she said. “Too often, Black women are isolated and expect to go alone. We need to start to think about cohorts and pairs in which Black woman can support each other and support their leadership because when we’re alone, it’s incredibly isolating,” McHarris said.

“Collaboration is really the key to transformation,” Williams Prince said. 

See you tomorrow.

Sheryl Estrada


Fortune’s CFO Collaborative in partnership with Workday, “The Promise and Pressure of ESG Measures,” takes place on Wednesday, August 11. The event, created just for CFOs, will feature Brian T. Moynihan, chairman and CEO, Bank of America; Claus Aagaard, CFO, Mars Inc.; Ann Dennison, CFO, Nasdaq; Giulia Siccardo, associate partner, McKinsey & Company; and Emma Stewart, sustainability officer, Netflix. CFOs can join their peers in learning more about embracing ESG while attracting new investors and cutting borrowing costs and operating expenses. CFOs can apply here. For more information, email CFOCollaborative@Fortune.com.

Big deal

A report released on July 27 by Atlas VPN, a tech company that offers a virtual private network, found that ransomware has, so far, cost victims approximately $45 million in 2021. The ransomware group Conti has received almost $13 million in total, according to the report. The payment amounts are based on data collected by the ransomwhe.re website, a ransomware payment tracker.

Going deeper

As digital transformation is taking place at many organizations, implementing artificial intelligence (A.I.) is top on the list. But there needs to be an organization-wide understanding of A.I. ethics, according to a new report in Harvard Business Review. The authors point to procurement officers, senior leaders, data scientists and engineers among those who may cause the greatest risk without having a proper understanding of A.I. ethics. The report provides six strategies to implement, including tying your efforts to your company's purpose.


Ajay Kataria was named EVP and CFO at Utz Brands, Inc., a U.S. snack food company, effective October 4, 2021. Kataria is currently the company’s EVP of finance and accounting. Kataria joined Utz in 2017 and worked on the company’s FP&A, commercial finance, and supply chain finance teams, in addition to overseeing the IT function. He joined Utz from Armstrong Flooring, Inc. where he served as VP of global finance and strategy.

Mark Hansen was named CFO at Entrata, a technology platform. Most recently, Hansen served as the head of finance and accounting as well as the interim co-CFO at Pluralsight.His appointment follows the recent announcement of $507M in funding towards Entrata's growth.


"Whether you put $10 or $10 million in, our goal is to make you a happy investor now and over time. That remains the same."

—Bed Bath & Beyond  CEO Mark Tritton on being respectful of retail investors that have rallied around the company, as reported by Yahoo Finance.

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