Mellody Hobson, President of Ariel Investments
Talk about financial fitness. As president of one of the largest black-owned money management companies in the U.S., Ms. Hobson has a collective $3 billion in assets under her purview. Hobson worked her way up from intern to president in just nine years, has been recognized with multiple awards and is a financial contributor on ABC’s Good Morning America.
Reader Sara Norvell says, “It does my heart good to see women like Hobson in finance. I think as a community in the past, African Americans were more consumers of goods as opposed to producers. Young people of my son's generation are in the pipeline to become producers in the economy, and that bodes well for the economic health of our country.”
Image Credit: Joi/Flickr
Cathy Hughes, Founder of Radio One and TV One
This media mogul is the founder of Radio One, whose call sign you’ve no doubt heard if you’ve ever listened to the radio in one of the nine major markets where it dominates. When the company went public in 1998, it made Ms. Hughes the first and only black female to head a publicly traded corporation.
Reader Kerry-Ann Poyser Edwards says, “I think what is most impressive about Ms. Hughes is her ability to keep moving forward in the face of obstacles. Her tenacity, drive and risk-taking inspire me to always push ahead, always speak out and always strive for success.”
Madam C.J. Walker, Entrepreneur
Long before the Civil Rights movement was even a thought, Ms. Walker founded a wildly successful hair care company in the late 19th century, making her the first self-made, female black millionaire.
LearnVest reader Nancy McCracken says, “I view her as not only a black female icon, but an icon to women everywhere.”
Reader Nancy Cooke says, “She’s an outstanding black woman entrepreneur (long before those words would have ever appeared all together in one sentence!). She truly 'worked her way up' from the cotton fields to owning her own hair care product empire—but she never forgot where she came from and always sought to share her wealth to help others."
Laurie N. Robinson, Senior VP and Assistant General Counsel at CBS
Robinson, a lawyer who oversees and coordinates the CBS legal departments, founded Corporate Counsel Women of Color, which holds conferences around the world, and published a report on the progression of black female attorneys in the industry. Multiple awards have recognized her drive and hard work.
Reader Lady T. says, “As a young black attorney, I have been inspired by Ms. Robinson's rise to success. Ms. Robinson has taught me the importance of establishing networks and starting early. Even as a young attorney, it is important to put myself out there even if I'm not yet able to bring in the clients.”
Dr. Vivian Pinn
Dr. Pinn broke ground as the only black and only female to graduate from University of Virginia School of Medicine in her class, and went on to be the first black woman to chair an academic pathology department in the U.S., at Howard University College of Medicine. In 1991, she won appointment as the first full-time director of the Office of Research on Women's Health at the National Institutes of Health.
Reader Kara Brothers says, “One of my favorite accomplishments of hers is her focus on changing how women’s health is viewed, emphasizing not only reproductive health, but also important health issues women face, such as heart disease. She’s also increased the number of women in leadership and research positions. ‘Overcome barriers and exceed expectations,‘ she’d say."
Michelle Obama, First Lady
The first black First Lady has proved to be more than just a famous wife and mother, but an inspiring leader to all women. She set aside her own impressive career in law, the public sector and education to fill a role that demands intelligence and grace under pressure, all the while doing so with impeccable style.
Reader Cherish Samuels says, “She is an accomplished wife and mother who, in spite of her critics, still manages to smile and keep it together ... and all while wearing cute and affordable trend-setting fashions!”
LearnVester Nancy Cooke also admires Ms. Obama. “She is walking a path that no other black woman in history has walked. Her insistence on maintaining a healthy and strong family—even under the extreme rigors of being the first black First Family—is very inspiring and makes me proud of her every day.”
Image Credit: An Honorable German/Flickr
Issa Rae, Star and Producer of Misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl
In 2011 when Issa Rae didn’t see a good representation of her experience on screen, the 2007 Stanford grad created her own series on YouTube called Misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl, which has since become an internet sensation.
LearnVest reader Jeamice Parker says, "These days it’s rare to see black men and women as lead characters (and not caricatures) on television sitcoms. Issa Rae is inspiring because she was able to use a variety of resources to bring my now favorite web series to life. It's one thing to have a vision, but to use creative ways to see it come to fruition makes everything worth it."
Julianne Malveaux, Economist, Author, Businesswoman
The brilliant Julianne Malveaux entered college in 11th grade and earned her B.A. and M.A. degrees in economics in three years. Her weekly columns appear in publications like Los Angeles Times, Detroit Free Press and the Charlotte Observer, she has contributed to USA Today and Ms. Magazine and has authored three books.
Reader Rebecca Nuttall says, “As a staff writer for the New Pittsburgh Courier, one of the country’s oldest African-American newspapers, I have the opportunity to read Julianne Malveaux’s column nearly every week. Malveaux uses her background in economics to illustrate progressive and insightful observations on gender, race and culture. When she cries out against racial and gender disparities, people listen."
Monique Greenwood, Author and Business Owner
Monique Greenwood parlayed her success in opening the famous Akwaaba Bed & Breakfast and the Akwaaba Café in Brooklyn, plus another B&B in Cape May, New Jersey, into a best-selling book to inspire other black women to reach the same professional heights.
Reader Stephanie Walkes says, "When I read her book 'Having What Matters: The Black Woman's Guide to Creating the Life You Really Want,' I felt so inspired, like anything was possible as long as you're willing to do the work. I sent her an email telling her about my plans. She called me, we met for dessert, she showed me her B&B in Brooklyn and offered to answer my questions. Since then I've purchased two of my own rental properties and am planning to purchase my third one in about four years."
Oprah Winfrey, Media Mogul
Oprah really needs no introduction. This media mogul and lifestyle guru has built her brand on encouraging women to live their best lives, with humble and uplifting advice. With an estimated net worth of $2.7 billion, she’s used her financial power to help and encourage women all over the world.
Reader Dana Franklin says, “I appreciate anyone who can start from humble beginnings such as Oprah Winfrey. I respect any businesswoman (of any race) who is in the financial driver’s seat.”
Tanisha Wilson-Iheagwara adds, "To me, she embodies the will to never give up on your dreams and to never let anyone tell you you can't do something."
Image Credit: Alan Light/Flickr
Jayne Kennedy, Actress and Sportscaster
Jayne Kennedy had a career of firsts. She was the first black women to win the Miss Ohio USA pageant, one of the first women to break into the male-dominated field of sports commentary, and was the first black actress to grace the cover of Playboy (without even getting nude).
Reader Katherene Jones says, "Jayne Kennedy is the embodiment of a strong, beautiful, smart successful businesswoman. Even though I have never met her in person, she has touched my life in a way she will never know. Ms. Kennedy taught me to embrace who I am."
Kim Love, Video Blogger and Entrepreneur
Part of the newest wave of black internet darlings, Kim Love video blogs about her adventures in caring for her natural hair on her impressively polished YouTube channel, while running her own company, LuvNaturals.
Reader Renee McNeal says, "She has inspired me through all of the things she has accomplished: her extremely informative Youtube channel, the length of healthy natural hair that she grew, her level of living, her outlook on life, her relationship with her husband ... everything that she chooses to share with her subscribers on YouTube. I plan to start a business soon, and seeing her success has gotten me to the point where I feel like I can do it too."
Rosa Parks, Civil Rights Leader
It wouldn’t be Black History Month without a nod to Rosa Parks, whose simple act of courage inspired a movement.
Nancy Cooke says, "Her refusal to give up her [bus] seat to a white man launched her into a painful but brilliant struggle for racial equality—and turned the tides of racism in this country. I was also shocked to learn just how many times she had to apply for her voter registration before she finally got it—she passed the test many times before the powers that be would give her the registration card she had rightfully earned. But she never gave up. She embodies courage to me."