2019 Business Leaders of Color Publication


Chicago United developed the Business Leaders of Color publication in response to research data from its biennial Corporate Diversity Profile, which measures the representation of people of color in corporate leadership in the boardrooms and executive suites of Chicago corporations. The research reflects an ongoing under-representation of leaders of color relative to the available talent pool.

Chicago United’s leadership decided that the best way to demonstrate that highly qualified diverse talent did exist was not just to TELL the Chicago business community, but to SHOW it. That was the birth, in 2003, of this publication that demonstrates the depth and breadth of diverse talent available in Chicago. Chicago United has produced the Business Leaders of Color publication biennially since.


Chicago United surveyed CEOs of Chicago corporations about the qualities they seek when filling positions for boards of directors. The CEO responses were consistent:

  • A track record of balanced decision-making and an appreciation for multiple perspectives.
  • A breadth of perspectives, a range of experiences that reflect flexibility and the ability to transcend narrow experiences and issues.
  • A demonstrated ability to respect diverse points of view and varied ways to approach issues and topics.

All the CEOs interviewed want candidates who have had a diversity of experiences, and a track record of demonstrated successes in their professional endeavors, and respect for different perspectives.

The selection process is rigorous, consisting of a detailed nomination form, and evaluation by a nomination committee, ranking committee, final selection committee and CEO committee that signs off on the results. In 2019, these committees narrowed the field from 182 nominations down to 50 honorees.


Between 2003 and 2019, Chicago United has presented to the Chicago business community 420 Business Leaders of Color who have been elected to more than 300 corporate directorships. Our BLCs regularly appear on lists of top leaders in their fields. Past BLCs include former First Lady Michelle Obama, Valerie B. Jarrett, former senior advisor to former President Barack Obama, Gery Chico, politician, lawyer and public official, Don Thompson, retired chief executive officer of McDonald’s Corporation, Andrés Tapia, global diversity and inclusion thought leader at Korn Ferry, Billy Dec, chief executive officer of Rockit Ranch Productions, and Kwame Raoul, Illinois attorney general.

Each BLC tells his or her story in their own words, sharing their experiences and challenges in a way that all professionals of color can relate to. But it’s also a way for these accomplished leaders to speak directly to decision makers on corporate boards, highlighting their suitability to step into directorships.

In 2019 and 2020, Chicago United will promote the publication to the media, professional organizations and top executive recruitment firms with board practices.


Kimberly Crooms, Director of Communications
[email protected]

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