Part of Jordan Davis’ admiration of Rihanna can be summed up in the lyrics to the artist’s massive 2016 hit, aptly named “Work:” “Just get ready for work, work, work, work, work, work.”
A recent graduate of Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, with all the exuberance and optimism afforded those at the start of new, exciting careers, Davis tongue-in-cheekily describes the lyrics as the most relatable she’s ever heard.
“There are numerous incredible Black women in business that I admire, but without a doubt Rihanna is my absolute CEO queen,” says Davis, a 2022 Poets&Quants for Undergrads Best & Brightest honoree. “All jokes aside, Robyn Rihanna Fenty is the moment. I think what I love most about Rihanna as a business executive is how her duality and devotion shines through every single part of Fenty Beauty.”
When Rihanna first debuted her line of make-up and beauty products, many thought she should stick to music. Today, the company is worth about $2.8 billion and has one of the widest shade ranges in the industry.
“Rihanna taught me that I do not have to let just one thing define me, my path, or my purpose. Sure, Rihanna is an incredible musician, but aren’t we all good at more than one thing? Not only did she give herself permission to pursue another path, but she also made sure to bring all the melanated sisters with her. Rihanna intentionally created an inclusive, affordable, quality makeup line for a group of people that are historically excluded from this luxury,” Davis says.
THE FAVORITE EXECUTIVES OF TOP BUSINESS GRADUATES
Each year, P&Q honors 100 graduates among the Best & Brightest Undergraduate Business Majors. As part of the nomination, we ask the students to tell us about the business executives who most inspire them.
Their answers range from CEO rock stars, to quiet leaders of small organizations carving out their own niche in industry; From women powerhouses, to mentors who’ve helped the students strike their own paths. The executives listed on the following pages are innovators, trailblazers, and leaders working as forces for good. Below are a few of our favorites.
INSPIRING WOMEN LEADERS
“It is one thing to be a role model for others, but it is another to actively create opportunities to empower women. As the Founder of Girls Who Invest and Managing Director at Morgan Stanley, Seema Hingorani is both a business executive and mentor whom I greatly admire. Over her 25+ years as a female investor, Seema has shattered glass ceilings and proven that women can succeed on Wall Street. While her career progression is incredibly impressive by itself, Seema is my role model because she used her platform to lift other women up with her – something which I hope to do throughout my career. Seema recognized the barriers that prevented younger generations of women from entering asset management and founded Girls Who Invest, a non-profit dedicated to increasing female representation in the male dominated financial services industry. As a Girls Who Invest Scholar, my career trajectory was personally touched by Seema, and I would not be where I am without the community of supportive women that she has created.”– Michelle He, Emory University (Goizueta)
“Urusla Burns – the first African American woman to serve as the CEO of a Fortune 500 company – is one of the business executives that I admire the most. Growing up in a low-income home raised by a single mother, her story is truly one of resilience and grit. After receiving degrees from Brooklyn Polytechnic University and Columbia University, Burns started her career at Xerox and quickly rose to the position of CEO. In 2009, she was tapped by President Obama to lead the STEM Education Coalition, increasing student participation and performance in science, technology, engineering, and math. Her career also led her to serve on the boards of leading companies such as Exxon Mobile, Uber, and VEON.
“Described as bold, outspoken, and down to earth, Burns is a role model for me as a young woman diving head-first into corporate America. She was an advocate for speaking one’s mind and gained the respect of her male peers for her tenacity and ambition. She shattered through glass ceilings as not only a woman but a person of color, and her devotion to encouraging and supporting others to do the same is inspiring.” — Kara Pomerantz, Georgia Tech (Scheller)
“As a first generation American and a female in a male-dominated field, I am no stranger to the concept of adversity. Indra Nooyi, former CEO of PepsiCo, is an absolute inspiration. Her ambitions were never curtailed by others, and she always pursued her dreams. She broke barriers and defied societal, cultural, and gender norms to become the first woman of color and immigrant to run a Fortune 500 company. Oh, and she played lead guitar in an all-girl rock band. I am absolutely inspired by her story, her determination and perseverance.” — Ruku Pal, Miami University (Farmer)
“Stephen Schwarzman is the Chairman and CEO of Blackstone Group, the largest private equity form in the world. As the son of a dry goods store owner, Stephen came from an extremely humble beginning. His drive and work ethic carried him to new heights – attending undergrad at Yale, serving in the military, graduating from Harvard, and more. He spent months knocking on the door of Wall Street firms until one finally said yes to him. Fast forward and he is now called the “King of Capital.” Through it all, he has never given anything but 110% and consistently given back to the community. His immense knowledge and determination are only something I can try and aspire for.” — Bridget Momper, University of Dayton
“Coming into freshman year, the Business Fellows read Creating a World Without Poverty by Muhammad Yunus. Yunus is the founder Grameen Bank, which gives entrepreneurs too poor to qualify for traditional bank loans access to microcredit and utilizes a group accountability system which has proven to have very low default rates. I admire that Yunus thought about the systematic barriers in our world as a problem and created a solution that wasn’t a non-profit charity, but rather, a for-profit business opportunity.” — Meredith MacKenzie, Elon University (Love)
“David Solomon, CEO of Goldman Sachs. I had the honor of hearing David speak to the 2021 intern class while interning at the firm this past summer in NYC. David shared a story about getting rejected from the firm when he applied to an analyst position upon graduating college. It is crazy to think that a man of his stature was once rejected from the company he now leads, which is a true testament to his resilience. One of the many things I admire David for is his decision to continue producing music after becoming CEO. Many people initially questioned his part-time DJ gig, but I personally think it makes David more relatable to the younger generations in the workforce. I am especially grateful that he allowed the summer internship in 2021 to be in person, although most firms decided on remote internships. I admire David for using his platform to stress the importance of personal connectivity as he believed that interns would miss out on mentorship opportunities in a virtual environment. I am very excited to begin working at GS under David’s motivating leadership!” — Cory Levy, University of Miami (Herbert)
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