While the collective history of many human societies haven’t been fair to the feminine counterpart, women have learned to cement themselves and make their marks in whatever industry they choose to participate in. The cumulative impact of women in all societies across the globe transcends the age-old expectations and roles of women, who before, assumed niches limited inside the house, such as child-rearing and doing house chores. For many years, women have fought to gain their rights.
This year, with the continuous rise of women empowerment and with Kamala Harris as the first female, African American, and Asian vice president of the US, things are definitely looking up for women. Unafraid to go for positions of power, women are now CEOs, leaders of major organizations, lawyers, politicians, and business owners—successful people who do not back down and continually prove that being a woman, in itself, is powerful. Here are 40 influential women of 2020:
- Laurie Vignaud
Laurie Vignaud is the CEO and President of Unity National Bank of Houston NA, the only African American-owned banking institution in Texas. Laurie is active with several organizations and serves on the NAACP Texas State Corporate Advisory Board, the Texas Southern University Business School Advisory Board, the Houston Area Urban League Board of Directors, Earl Carl Institute Board of Directors, and the Ensemble Theatre board.
- Tye Hayes
Tye Hayes is the Chief Technology Officer for the Department of Atlanta Information Management for the City of Atlanta. Tye is a Navy veteran and a consummate professional with over 20 years of experience as a technologist, solutions architect, and business strategist within the information technology industry. Most recently, Tye served as the Deputy CIO for Atlanta Public Schools. She has an extensive background in IT services, having previously served as an information security officer for Lockheed Martin Aeronautics where she led the Information Security Compliance and Governance group.
- Stacey Abrams
Stacey Abrams is a New York Times bestselling author, serial entrepreneur, nonprofit CEO, and political leader. After serving for eleven years in the Georgia House of Representatives, seven as Democratic Leader, in 2018, Abrams became the Democratic nominee for Governor of Georgia, winning more votes than any other Democrat in the state’s history. Abrams was the first black woman to become the gubernatorial nominee for a major party in the United States, and she was the first black woman and first Georgian to deliver a response to the State of the Union.
- Kaley O’Kelly
Kaley O’Kelley is the CEO/founder of YouStreamNetworks, a revolutionary technology company streaming virtual events globally in partnership with The APP Company. The multiscreen interactive platform showcases pre-produced and live content allowing the user to produce and direct their own streaming experience. The company recently partnered with the online gamified fundraising powerhouse, FundDuel. Together they are collaborating with Generation Hip Hop Global (GHH) and various sports/entertainment organizations worldwide.
O’Kelley is also a 6-time Emmy Award-winning journalist who brings two decades of experience to the anchor desk on ABC15 mornings in Phoenix, Arizona. O’Kelley was selected by the White House and invited to interview President Donald Trump exclusively during his re-election campaign.
- Sarah Jakes Roberts
Sarah Jakes Roberts is redefining what it means to be a modern woman of faith. Her messages spread throughout the world defy cultural, religious, gender, and socioeconomic boundaries. Whether through her bestselling books or viral messages, it only takes a few minutes of connecting with her to understand why she becomes an instant favorite. Sarah has a unique way of reaching people who are seeking to make peace with their past, maximize their present, and deepen their relationship with God.
- Catherine Horgan
Catherine B. Horgan is a dynamic and innovative business leader. In 2016, after a successful 20-year career at the Coca-Cola Company, Cathy co-founded Brand Aspirations, a boutique consulting firm that offers custom tailored services and solutions to clients and brands that help them reach their potential. More recently, in 2019, she co-founded and launched KeyPleaz™, a real estate technology company that connects busy agents with available agents, allowing a brokerage to provide faster service to their clients.
- Crystal King
Crystal Anderson King is a multiple award-winning Supplier Diversity & Equity professional. She joined Grady Health System in March 2019 as the Director of Supplier Diversity & Equity. In this role, she works to identify, mentor and engage diverse suppliers in Grady’s supply chain process. Crystal is the 2020 Supply Chain Advocate of the Year by Georgia Minority Supplier Diversity Council. She is an Atlanta Business League Top 100 Women of Influence honoree for 2019 and 2020.
- Ann-Marie Mcgaughey
Ann-Marie McGaughey focuses on the general corporate representation of both publicly and privately held companies, including family businesses, in a wide array of industries, including technology, retail, financial services, manufacturing, healthcare, energy, automotive, travel, education, health and beauty, and service-oriented areas. She has particular skill in representing multinational companies in connection with US transactions and operations, and coordinating multi discipline and multijurisdictional teams.
- Dr. Velma Trayham
Dr. Velma Trayham is recognized nationally as an award-winning entrepreneur, empowerment specialist, revolutionary thinker, and transformational leader who has inspired change and has become a symbol of hope and success to women worldwide. She is also a social media influencer, highly sought-after motivational speaker, and author whose book, When God Says Go, has sold over 400,000 copies impacting lives worldwide.
Velma has devoted herself to helping other women achieve success, prosperity, and freedom through her nonprofit “ Millionaire Mastermind Academy” whose mission is to end poverty through entrepreneurship for women worldwide. She economically empowers audiences worldwide by insisting on teaching that poverty is a state of the mind, and that anyone can achieve what they want through hard work, perseverance, and drive.
- Valaurie Lee
Serial entrepreneur Valaurie Lee is the CEO and president of Building Bridges Holding Company, the organization that houses several ventures Valaurie owns. Her longest-running business, VB Consulting (VBC), is an IT software services firm Valaurie established in 2002. VBC specializes in software implementations and IT support services for colleges and universities. VBC has served several institutions across the United States and expanded into Canada in 2010. VBC has led several projects at leading colleges like Harvard, Stanford, Emory, Cal State, Arizona State University, and a host of others throughout the nation.
- Kiana Dancie
Having always been the life of the party with a dynamic personality and a glowing smile, The Kiana Dancie has shared several dramatic and colorful life experiences on her sold-out “Single In The City’” comedy tour across the country. She is a powerhouse of a comedienne, speaker, media personality, actress, and entrepreneur on and off stage. She’s been featured on the hit TV ONE show Who’s Got Jokes? with Bill Bellamy, where she destroyed the stage and Bounce TV’s second season of Off The Chain, where the host Rodney Perry introduced her as a beast! She is a former co-host of TV One’s nationally syndicated talk show, Sister Circle Live.
- Pinky Cole
Aisha “Pinky” Cole is of Jamaican descent and the owner of the massively thriving plant-based business known as Slutty Vegan. Atlanta will soon house three locations, and there are food trucks that travel across the state and country to feed thousands of eager customers. Celebrities, dignitaries, and everyday people gather daily to experience the unique flair that Slutty Vegan has to offer.
- Shantella Michelle Pleasant
Shantella “Michelle” Pleasant has been in the real estate industry for over 15 years as a realtor and broker associate. After returning to Atlanta after living in Arizona, she wasn’t really sure if real estate was what she really wanted to do. Michelle is involved with the Atlanta Realtor Association and has served on the Training and Development Community, New Agent Sub-Committee, and was chosen out of 200 Realtors for the ARA Leadership Program for 2018. Michelle was among the top 50 of more than 1,800 real estate professionals at her previous company, PalmerHouse Properties.
- Wanda Wright
Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services Director, Col. Wanda Wright is the third generation of her family to serve in the U.S. military. She has three decades of military experience. As a 1985 United States Air Force Academy graduate, Col. Wright began her military career as Deputy Budget Officer with the Tactical Air Command at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, with a follow-on assignment to Davis-Monthan AFB as the Budget Officer.
Col. Wright holds a BS in Management from the U.S. Air Force Academy, a MBA from Webster University in South Carolina, a MPA from the University of Arizona, and an MA in Educational Leadership from Arizona State University.
- Valencia Curnell
CEO Valencia has a niche for creating unique market needs. From her six-week running music showcases to her live events and business assessment curriculum, it is safe to say that Valencia is a force to be reckoned with. She is currently the CEO and founder of Cocktails & Corkscrews, LLC, a wine brand, creating signature wines, vineyards, and wineries with business partners William Higgs and Shanteer Brown. Also, Valencia’s brand creations reach new levels with the forming of Kulture Design Inc., a design and art-based company where she partners with fiancé and designer Duane Andrews of Miami, Fl. Valencia has partnered with and created many successful brands, and there is no stopping her now.
- Valarie Benning Thompson
From the Olympic Games to television and from digital content creation to live entertainment, producer and entertainment industry veteran Valarie Benning Thompson has launched careers and supported considerable talent in a variety of entertainment endeavors over the past 30 years.
During her career Valarie has produced or managed over 25 stadium, arena, and theatrical tours, nationally and internationally, for artists such as Luther Vandross, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, NWA, Guy, Bow Wow, DaBrat, The Wiz, 42nd Street, Sounds of Blackness, The World Cup Opening Ceremony, The Centennial Olympics, Prince, Kevin Hart, Mike Epps, DeRay Davis , The Shaquille O’Neal All Star Comedy Jam, and Nick Cannon’s Wild N’Out Live Tour.
- Ty Woods
Ty Woods is a serial entrepreneur and the CEO of Artportunity Knocks Inc., a nonprofit organization which she co-founded more than a dozen years ago. Artportunity Knocks provides STEM and arts education to K-12 students and plays an integral role in combating truancy and improving academic achievement and student engagement. Ty continues to be recognized as an expert and thought leader in the field of education as it pertains to arts integration methods in public schools, nonprofit development, and lectures across the country regarding after-school program advocacy. An avid writer with a passion for educating and elevating others she has released a book, Compact Guide: 14 Ways to Make $1,000 A Month During a Pandemic.
- Sabrina Jenkins
Sabrina Jenkins is currently the president & CEO of SJL 26 Event Productions, which creates and implements large and small corporate and social events. Sabrina is also a consultant for NextUp Partners and is the current President of WISE Atlanta, where she leads the organization in supporting women in both the sports and events industry through mentoring programs, professional development, and training. She spent 27 years with the Atlanta Braves, ending her career with the organization as Vice President of Special Events in January 2019.
Throughout her career, Sabrina has served on several non-profit boards, including the Marquis Grissom Baseball Association and Field of Dreams Academy, along with the Atlanta Chapter of Women in Sports and Events. She has been part of the National WISE Within Mentoring Program since its inception in 2007. Sabrina is also a member of G.A.M.E. (Georgia Association of Minority Entrepreneurs. Sabrina also served on the Georgia Minority Supplier Development Leadership Council for over 10 years.
- Leona Barr Davenport
Leona Barr-Davenport is President and CEO of the Atlanta Business League (ABL), Atlanta’s oldest minority business development and advocacy organization.
As president, she works with the board of directors to provide increased access to business opportunities for minorities with specific emphasis on the development of businesses owned or operated by African Americans.
- Nicole Michelle
Nicole Michelle Durio, CPA is the managing principal of Madison Brothers Consulting Group. Nicole is a proven leader in the consulting industry. She has more than 25 years of experience in accounting, financial reporting, advisory services, business consulting, CFO services, and internal and external auditing. She has a breadth of knowledge in mergers and acquisitions, divestitures, merger integration, financial planning and analysis, strategic planning, effective treasury management, and the development, implementation and ongoing monitoring of control systems.
Ms. Durio also has specialized due diligence experience in conducting both buy-side and sell-side transactions, including preparation of information memorandums, target evaluation, deal flow management and transaction negotiation. She has worked on more than 300 transactions with purchase price valuations up to $40.0 billion. Ms. Durio also has cross-border transactional experience in Canada, China, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Spain, and the United Kingdom.
- Dr. Alice White Bussey
Dr. Bussey was born in South DeKalb County, grew up in the County Line/Ellenwood Community, and attended DeKalb County Public Schools. She graduated as an honor student and the valedictorian of her class at the age of 16 years. She received numerous academic scholarships. Dr. Bussey attended several colleges and universities both in Atlanta and Los Angeles, California, having received undergraduate degrees in business administration, sociology, government and urban studies, a master’s degree in public administration, and an honorary doctorate of business administration from her Alma Mater City University Los Angeles. Dr. Bussey is a lifetime member of Poplar Springs Missionary Baptist Church in South DeKalb County.
- Montra McKenzie
Philanthropist, advocate, community activist, and change agent Montra Mckenzie is a true example of a leader. With twenty years experience in real estate and business, Mckenzie has excelled in both industries that are challengings for black women. In this capacity, she has made significant milestones in the nonprofit sector. In 2017 Montra launched a nonprofit serving underprivileged youth and families.
- Diamond Moseley
La`Diamond Moseley is the founder of Diamond Solutions LLC and The Impact Project, Inc., a conglomerate company that helps bridge gaps among businesses, nonprofits organizations, civic leaders, and marginalized communities. In this dual role, she leads the strategic direction of the Impact Project, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization that curates service projects to raise awareness and provide platforms for people to make a difference. The Impact Project has served over 1,000 at-risk youth domestically and is now expanding internationally with a virtual learning computer lab in Kingston, Jamaica.
- Valerie Montgomery Rice
Valerie Montgomery Rice, MD, FACOG, provides a valuable combination of experience at the highest levels of patient care and medical research, as well as organizational management and public health policy. Marrying her transformational leadership acumen and strategic thinking to tackle challenging management issues, she has a track record of redesigning complex organizations’ infrastructures to reflect the needs of evolving strategic environments and position the organization for success through sustainability tactics.
The sixth president of Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) and the first woman to lead the freestanding medical institution, Montgomery Rice serves as both the president and dean.
- Dr. Faith Abraham
Dr. Faith Abraham is an online entrepreneur and business coach, founder of Restoration Coaching & Counseling Services LLC. She is an award winning coach and counselor helping businesses and people from all walks of life achieve profitable 6 figure status businesses as well as personal success by identifying their life’s platform.
- Lisa Bonner
Lisa Bonner is a lawyer, writer, and avid traveler who has successfully merged her professional life, her love of public speaking, hosting, and travel. After graduating from New York University School of Law, Lisa began her career as a litigator, then transitioned to practice entertainment and media law. As a veteran entertainment and media attorney, Lisa provides counsel for large media companies, film distribution companies, music, television and film producers, and independent artists, Grammy Award-winning recording artists, and music publishers.
- Tiera Richardson
Highly dedicated, goal-driven, and an Air Force veteran, Tiera S. Richardson is a passionate Philanthropist, published Poet, and an Ambassador for all survivors. She is a resilient cerebellum stroke survivor who has a true ardency for making the world a better, more positive place and takes pride in leveraging her underlying empowerment to leave an influencing foot trail within society.
As a bilateral cerebellum stroke survivor (2018), Tiera found motivation to help others like her through such challenging times. Today, she is the Founder and Leader of the non-profit, Strokes 2 Life Initiative Inc., reinforcing her mission in delivering holistic recovery for others. Here she provides educational support about strokes, financial literacy, and both mental and physical health counseling that cultivates dynamic life prosperity after facing life-altering catastrophic events.
- Keisha Walker
Keshia Walker is the president and founder of Insights Marketing & Promotions Company, and the founder and chairwoman of the Black Collegiate Gaming Association (BCGA), both headquartered in Atlanta, GA.
Created in May 2020, The Black Collegiate Gaming Association’s (BCGA) purpose is to pivot our HBCUs into the overall gaming industry, not only as consumers but as contributors. BGCA strives to build-up African American students that will be prepared to interview and become a part of the gaming industry both on the competition level as well as the corporate level. BCGA will aid in creating future groundbreakers.
- Zarinah Shakir
Zarinah Shakir was born and raised in Schenectady, (Ski-neck-ta-dy), New York. She attended Lincoln University and Hampton University, with an emphasis in psychology. At the age of 20 she married her childhood friend Omar Shakir, and in 2020, they celebrated 41 years of matrimony. This ongoing accomplishment along with raising their three wonderful children, now ages 37, 35, and 31 are her proudest moments. They now have 2 beautiful daughter-in-laws and 1 handsome son in-law along with five awesome grandchildren who lovingly call her “honey.”
She is a licensed funeral director with a goal to own her own funeral home and is currently in business with her oldest son Rashad. “S J & J Solutions LLC dba Affordable Window Washing Plus” provides, disinfecting/sanitizing services, window cleaning/power washing/ gutter/solar panel cleaning, throughout San Antonio/Austin and surrounding areas. They are members of the United States Black Chamber, where they met and are now being mentored by Dr. Velma Trayham CEO of Thinkzilla Consulting Group.
- Melonie Erickson
Melonie Platt Erickson, a native of Atlanta, is a graduate of The University of Georgia. She started her real estate career in Jacksonville, Florida where she won numerous awards. She listens to her client’s needs, responds with a determination to fulfill those requests, and has a proven record from her years in Jacksonville.
Now back in the Atlanta market, Melonie is making her mark. Her positive personality, skills, knowledge, determination, and persistence makes her a winning combination for her clients. She is a pleasure to work with, and her ability to make a transaction seamless, along with her negotiation skill set, makes for an excellent experience.
- Tamala Austin
An early holiday gift for Houston residents focused on health and wellness, J.I.V.E. Juice is now available at Whole Foods Market. J.I.V.E Juice (Juice Is Very Essential) is the first juice company owned by an African American to be placed in Whole Foods.
Founded by Tamala Austin, author of “Love My Body Again: 21-Day Meditation to Create Your Best Body Now” and a certified health coach, J.I.V.E. Juice provides organic cold-pressed fruit juices and smoothies to support a healthy lifestyle. Austin turned to juicing, nutrition, meditation, and exercise following a diagnosis of high blood pressure, eventually launching a growing juice delivery service throughout the Houston metro.
- Markela Taylor
Kela Taylor is an award-winning self-made entrepreneur. She is most known for the facility that she founded and built from the ground up, Universal Salon Suites, a 10,000 square feet facility that provides a quality workspace for beauty industry professionals along with a venue that is available for training events and their grand openings. That’s one business of many. Her core mission is to develop individuals one entrepreneur at a time. Taylor has her hands in numerous venture capitalist opportunities.
- Tami Latrell
Tami LaTrell is a multi-platinum, GRAMMY-nominated songwriter who’s written for artists such as Whitney Houston, Monica, Keyshia Cole, SWV, Rotimi, and country duo Love and Theft, to name a few. She inked her first music publishing deal in 2002 with EMI Music Publishing, which is now Sony/ATV Music Publishing.
Born and raised in Houston, Texas she holds her bachelor’s degree in journalism/PR/advertising with a speciality in business from Texas Southern University, where she graduated Magna Cum Laude in 2006.
Outside of songwriting, she facilitates music publishing and copyright workshops online as a music and rights protection advocate and speaks at different universities and music programs in schools. She’s a YouTube partner with over 650,000 views.
- Gia Rutledge
Gia Grant-Rutledge is the CEO of ProEval Insights. ProEval Insights’ mission is to provide small businesses and nonprofit organizations with the capacity to gain a deeper understanding of their organization’s impact and provide insights on how to use their data for program improvement, expansion, and leveraging funding. Core services provided by ProEval Insights include program development and evaluation; data collection, analysis, and reporting; proposal development; and conducting workshops and training.
She has over 20 years of experience in public-private partnerships. She has experience working with federal, state, and local governments, community-based organizations, non-profits, and national organizations. She also provides expertise on strategic planning, development of contract bids and grants, and measuring social impact. She received her master’s degree in public health (MPH) from theUniversity of Arizona and a bachelor’s in science of biology from the University of California at San Diego (UCSD). She is currently working on her doctorate in policy, planning, and development with a certificate in social innovation at the University of Southern California (USC).
- Tera Roberson Stidum
Ask Tera Stidum what her life’s passion and purpose are, and she’ll tell you she’s a motivator! As a five-time Emmy-nominated TV producer, Tera has spent nearly 20 years taking the stories of others and helping bring them to life as a TV producer. She has worked with notable celebrities such as Dr. Phil, Suze Orman, Judge Alex Ferrer, Judge Lynn Toler, and even interviewed Steve Harvey before his final comedy performance at the 2012 Neighborhood Awards.
After meeting her husband on a popular online dating site in 2015, she turned her success in love into a business. Through her company, She Dates Savvy, LLC—where she is affectionately known as “The Online Dating Guru”—Tera hosts dating workshops and 1-on-1 dating coaching to teach single, successful professionals how to navigate the world of dating— both online and off.
In July 2020, Tera released her second self-published book, Smart Girls Still Don’t Date Dumb: A Smart Girl’s Guide to Dating During an Era Of Egocentric Men, Guys Who Ghost, and Social Distance Dating.
- Gwennetta Wright
Dr. Gwennetta Wright is a seasoned entrepreneur and media personality. An award-winning businesswoman, Wright’s ability to reflect a passion for service to reach success has become a flagship component to her brand as a tax professional, business strategist, realtor, and media spokesperson. Known for her ability to project manage multiple and complicated professional endeavors, she utilizes her resources and talents to empower others and provide sound advice to other businesses. While work is important, Gwennetta has a vested interest in helping others polish their efforts by acting as a philanthropist and community-based liaison and mentor.
- Jalene Mack
Jalene Mack is mainly an entertainment attorney today. She has built a solid career record and an outstanding professional reputation through Booker T. Morris, III & Associates, P.C., Associate Attorney; Chicago Title Insurance Co., Attorney Escrow Officer; Gulf Coast Legal Foundation n/k/a Lone StarLegal Foundation, Law Clerk; and acquired ample experience as an intern with the Department of Justice, U.S. Trustee’s Office, and Former New Orleans Mayor now Urban League National President, Attorney Marc H. Morial. Jalene Mack is a member of the Texas State Bar.
- Toshia Posey
Toshia Posey has served in the hospitality industry for over 25 years and has been in operational leadership roles with various major organizations for the past 11 years. Her operational experience, leadership qualities, and keen attention to detail have allowed her to excel in her various entrepreneur opportunities. Being a realtor with a national cloud-based brokerage firm allows her access to listings across the United States in order to keep acquisition of land and real estate assets in house.
Posey is a proud member of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA) and the National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators & Developers (NABHOOD), and is a certified hotel owner through AAHOA.
- Aliyah Powell
Committed. Dedicated. Persistent. Resilient. This is who Aliyah Powell is. As the founder of Fit Fashionista LLC, an online retail store designed to provide women with an extra boost of confidence along their fitness journey, Aliyah is not only contributing to the health and wellness sector; she is living it.
After successfully losing 65 lbs. and witnessing the effects of a pandemic on the physical and mental well-being of society, Aliyah began working the frontline to develop a business and brand that promotes physical and mental wellness.
Exercise, fitness, meditation, and sweat are all essential to combating obesity, mental illness, and feeling stagnant; but the key to her feat has been looking good while feeling good, allowing her to gain the confidence and strength needed to transform her mind, body, and spirit. Finding a routine and committing to it will always be the beginning of a successful journey.
- Koereyelle DuBose
Koereyelle is a former educator who managed to turn her $32K teaching salary into a six-figure brand. She’s the founder of WERK University – the First Black-Woman-Owned trade school for women of color. Its program shows students how to start a new stream using their existing skills.