Sound, inspired leadership has never been more critical to the future of our communities. At Better, we’ve made it our mission to celebrate local and global leaders driving positive change. From eco warriors fighting to save our planet, to athletes making an impact on and off the court, to forces for change achieving progress in the face of unprecedented challenges, there are more inspiring leaders than we could ever account for in a single list.
Here, as in past years, we set out to highlight some of the Chicago area’s most dynamic Black women leading change in their professions and communities. To create this list, we asked: Who is a driving force for equity and inclusion? Who is at the top of her industry and mentoring the next generation of leaders? Who is helping those in need? The powerful women we found are all heroes within their industries, doing incredible work in healthcare, education, media, business and the nonprofit world.
Using our own research combined with recommendations from sources outside our company, we’ve arrived at this 2021 list of Chicago’s Top Black Women of Impact (listed alphabetically).
Vice President of Community Impact, The Chicago Community Trust
Davis connects donors with local expertise and knowledge to drive philanthropy, The Chicago Community Trust website says. She’s worked in the private and public sectors, most recently as executive director for the Chicago Committee, a group dedicated to racial and ethnic diversity in the legal profession, the website states.
“I do my best to follow the admonition from Brian Stevenson that if we are not hopeful we cannot move toward justice. I am hopeful today because broader groups of people are taking a hard look at the inequitable systems that still exist in modern society and are working on sustainable changes to make them more equitable.”
Author, poet and assistant professor at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration
Ewing has written four books and won numerous awards for her writing. Her research focuses on “racism, social inequality, and urban policy, and the impact of these forces on American public schools and the lives of young people,” her website states. Her book Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism & School Closings on Chicago’s South Side examines public school closings and structural racism in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood.
Publishers Weekly described Ewing “as a versatile, deeply perceptive, and imaginative thinker dedicated to the revolutionary potential of art.”
Ngozi Ezike, M.D.
Director, Illinois Department of Public Health
Ezike is at the forefront of the state’s efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic. She made headlines in October with an emotional plea for Illinois residents to social distance and wear masks, noting thousands of people killed by the pandemic would not be around to celebrate Thanksgiving. She supports The Alzheimer’s Foundation, Teach for America, Leadership Greater Chicago, Girls in the Game, GirlForward, and World Vision.
“My advice for today’s up-and-coming leaders is to pursue uncharted paths that will stretch and grow your abilities. Be fearless in your willingness to connect, engage with, and learn from people whose viewpoints and experiences are different from yours.”
Tiffany Hamel Johnson
President and CEO, Chicago United
Johnson leads Chicago United, which aims to make the Chicago business community more inclusive by advancing multiracial leadership in corporate governance and management. She supports My Block My Hood My City, the Greater Chicago Food Depository, Chicago State University Foundation, and Hoopademix Foundation.
“Character counts and integrity matters. Wake up with it, go to bed with it. Integrity should be your North Star. That’s what I live by every day.”
Suzanne Le Mignot
Anchor/Reporter, CBS 2 Chicago
Le Mignot is an Emmy-winning journalist, working at CBS 2 for more than 20 years, and her reporting has led to numerous positive changes in Chicago. In one instance, her news story on a building without heat led Peoples Gas to change the way it conducts shut-offs in the winter. Last year, Le Mignot landed an interview with Oprah Winfrey after Winfrey announced her plan to donate $12 million to groups in Chicago and elsewhere helping underserved communities during the pandemic.
Le Mignot has emceed Make It Better’s Philanthropy Awards three times, and she backs PAWS Chicago, BBF Family Services, Lifeline Humanitarian Organization, and Smile Train.
“Today’s up-and-coming leaders should always remember to lend a helping hand and mentor others on the way up the ladder. Remember, you didn’t get where you are by yourself, always give back!”
Director of Client Support and Senior Vice President, Wintrust Bank, Commercial Banking
Martin is a leader in the commercial banking industry. Her advice is to be authentic and stay engaged. “Always give 120% effort at all times; the world owes you nothing,” she said. Martin supports the Greater Chicago Food Depository.
“Witnessing immense changes in all business sectors around the topics of diversity, equity and inclusion, makes me hopeful for the future. Seeing countless corporations and people of all races not only acknowledge but also commit to bridging the racial disparity gaps, makes me hopeful.”
Executive Director/Founder, Wellness with Bella
McArthur founded Wellness with Bella in 2010. The organization provides health and wellness opportunities to children and veterans in underserved areas of Chicago and aims to alleviate the hunger that impedes children from learning in school.
“COVID-19 has been devastating on so many levels for so many people, but by and large, it has brought out the best in people. I am heartened by the number of people from diverse backgrounds, coming together to selflessly help those in need. The optimism we share, despite current circumstances, truly gives me hope.”
Nykea Pippion McGriff
2020-2021 President, Chicago Association of Realtors
Vice President of Strategic Growth, Coldwell Banker Realty
Pippion McGriff created the Xavier O. Joy scholarship at the Chicago Association Realtors Education Foundation in honor of her son. She supports RPAC, the National Association of Realtors political action committee.
“I’m all about showing up and doing the work, so I encourage future leaders to work hard and get involved. As a minority leader, I also believe it’s important to constantly be searching for my replacement to maintain diversity. Although I’m the first Black woman president of the Chicago Association of Realtors, I am focused on making sure the door stays open for the next leaders to come.”
Kathy H. Slaughter
Chief Development Officer, YWCA Evanston/North Shore
In addition to her work with the YWCA, which focuses on empowering women and combating racism, Slaughter serves on the Board for Books and Breakfast Evanston, and she supports the ETHS Foundation, the Chessmen Club of the Northshore, and Christ the King Jesuit College Preparatory School.
“My advice for today’s up and coming leaders is to stay focused, ask for help when you need it, and read Lead From The Outside by Stacey Abrams.”
Ellen Rozelle Turner
Founder, President, CEO, The William Everett Group
Turner serves on a number of committees and boards for political and charitable causes. She’s a board member for Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Affirmative Action Advisory Council and is a member of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee for The Executives Club of Chicago.
Turner serves as Chairman of the McGee Turner Family Foundation, which provides mentorship and training to youths in Black and Brown communities, her William Everett Group bio states. She also is known for her work with Circle Urban Ministries, Loretto Hospital, Harrington College of Design, DuSable Museum, and Girls Scouts of Greater Chicago.