When Fortune released its annual Most Powerful Woman list last week, editors at Black Enterprise were surprised to find that just one Black woman made the cut: Ann Marie Campbell, the executive vice president of Home Depot’s U.S. stores. Fortune was consequently contacted and asked to compare and contrast the list’s criteria and definition “power” with Black Enterprise’s own 50 powerful Black women list, which was published in March.
Black Enterprise editors spoke with Fortune senior writers Ellen McGirt and Beth Kowitt, as well as deputy digital editor Kristen Bellstrom, about the notable exclusion of Black women such as Shonda Rhimes, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, Tracey T. Travis (CFO of Estee Lauder Companies), and Kathy N. Waller (CFO of Coca Cola), to name a few.
Each of the women on Fortune’s list had an operational role in their company, the Fortune staffers said. “We have a couple of CFOs who have outside influence in their companies, but otherwise we really just consider women who are in operating positions,” Kowitt explained.
In fact, McGirt said, Fortune’s list was reflective of, not contributing to, institutionalized racism in corporate America.
“These lists reflect bigger systemic barriers that continue to exist,” McGirt argued. “I spent the last couple of months spending time with people like Roz Brewer and Ursula Burns and really interesting women, many of whom are not in operational roles, and we talked about why that is and how that happened.”
Ursula Burns, the former CEO of Xerox who resigned this year, so she was left off for that reason, Bellstrom acknowledged,.
Despite the explanations, Black Enterprise’s editors stood by their decision to celebrate powerful Black women regardless of the type of “role” they have. “It’s vital to offset [racism and sexism] by celebrating black female business leaders who demonstrate resilience in breaking barriers that help pave the way for younger black women to succeed,” Black Enterprise wrote.
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