Black/African American women: Leading the way to greater equality

As part of our celebration of Black History Month, we’re shining a spotlight on Black/African American women and their drive to forge their own paths to success as leaders in the workplace, business entrepreneurs, risk takers, strivers, achievers—and role models for the next generation.

Black/African American women are slowly but steadily making progress both within and outside corporate America. For the first time, there is more than one Black woman CEO in the Fortune 500.1 More Black women than ever are leading American law schools,2 and a Black woman holds the second-highest job in U.S. government. In addition, Black/African American women are the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs in the U.S., representing 42% of new women-owned businesses, three times that of the general population of women.3

And these achievements accompany a sense of great confidence among Black/African women. In fact, according to research conducted by Merrill, affluent Black/African American women were 30% more likely than the general population of affluent women to be optimistic about their financial future and to describe themselves as financially savvy. What’s more, 37% say they are motivated by a desire for personal achievement.4

Keeping the momentum going

Black/African American women leaders understand the power of preparing the next generation to build on their success, and therefore can serve as role models and mentors within your organization. According to a study conducted by LEAN IN and McKinsey & Company, among employees who aimed for executive rank, Black women were most likely to be motivated by a desire to positively influence company culture or to be role models.5

Providing opportunities for Black/African women to share their experiences and skills with others in your organization can help fulfill their desire to “give back” while having a positive impact on your workforce and business. For example, sponsoring employee networks is one way to connect employees and create a forum for sharing, which can inspire personal and professional growth and greater job satisfaction across your organization.

Key takeaways

  • Get inspired by reading the experiences of Merrill executives and others who have forged their own paths to success.
  • Consider opportunities to support the talents of Black/African American women in your organization and to bring employees together to learn from each other.

1 “The Female CEOs on This Year’s Fortune 500 Just Broke Three All-time Records,” June 2, 2021,

2 “‘It’s the Moment for This’: An Unprecedented Number of Black Women Are Leading Law Schools,” Karen Sloan,, May 2021.

3 The State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, American Express, 2019.

4 Diverse Viewpoints: Exploring Wealth in the Black/African American Community, Merrill and Ipsos, 2019.

5 Women in the Workplace Report 2018, and McKinsey & Company.