25 Black Women Executives with Successful Exits & 25 Who May Be Next

The ascension to CEO is often fraught with turbulence, roadblocks, and opacity. For women and people of color, the already treacherous climb is steep. For executives with intersectional identities—being both Black and female—the path is not only less traveled: It’s grueling.

While Black women leaders are the most educated and fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs in the U.S., paradoxically, they are also the most underrepresented among the C-Suite. Last year, the number of M&A deals in the U.S. were over 12,500. Tellingly, there’s no public data available that tracks the number of M&A deals led by Black women. And since the first IPO in the U.S around 1783, roughly 2 Black women leaders have been at the helm. 

Representation in Leadership

Only two Black women have ever led a Fortune 500 company since the list was first published in 1955. When it comes to managing assets, Black women in venture capital represent a dismal 1%, according to Equal Venture’s analysis conducted in 2018.

Digital Undivided’s report, Project Diane 2018, revealed Black women-led startups from 2009-2018 have raised $289 million in venture/angel funding compared with $424.9 billion raised in total tech venture funding within that same period. To break it down, in nine years, less than .0006% of venture capital went to Black women-led startups. These damning stats in both traditional corporate spaces and innovative tech spaces underscore that despite Black women’s pedigree, aspirations, work ethic, or leadership prowess, many fall through the cracks. 

Nonetheless, despite the many obstacles Black women leaders have faced historically (and presently) – they persist:

In addition to the aforementioned 25 Black women leaders who led successful exits, there’s a pipeline of Black women who are standing on their shoulders and climbing new heights. These rising leaders have each raised over $1M – a feat that could be mistaken for modest if not for the fact only 27 Black women ever reached that milestone just three years ago. We predict these 25 leaders will be next to lead a successful exit in 2-3 years:

This project is both a celebration and examination of Black women executives’ and entrepreneurs’ uphill trek to success. From Madam C.J. Walker to Aicha Evans, these 50 Black women have successfully subverted the status quo. Neither belonging to the Good Old Boys Club nor the Tech Bro Network, they created their own lanes in tech, media, retail, finance, travel, and more, and are forging brilliantly uncharted paths.

Infographic from Ashley Stewart for The Plug