2009 WBE Hall of Fame Honorees

At the dawning of a new century, women who influence 85 percent of the purchasing decisions have come of age in business. Today, women entrepreneurs make up a healthy part of the U. S. economy by operating businesses in all kinds of industry (even those previously dominated by men), capturing healthy contracts with corporations or government, hiring more new employees than most other organizations and circulating dollars from the bottom to the top of the economic structure.

In that same style of celebration and commitment, the Women’s Business Enterprise Hall of Fame, the preeminent organization to recognize women at the national level, honored its first class of outstanding women entrepreneurs, leaders and mentors on Dec. 3, 2009, at The Women’s Museum: An Institute for the Future in Dallas, Texas.

Inductees were recognized for pioneering advancements in women business inclusion and diversity in their community, nation or worldwide; passionate commitment to fair and ethical business practices; and consistent volunteerism and creation of opportunities for women to excel in business.

“We were looking at quality, not quantity. The time was right for a national award ceremony that honored women business enterprises,” said selection com mittee chairman Don McKneely. “The final 13 members selected had at least two decades or more of service to the cause and brought significant contribution to women business enterprise initiatives.”

The first class of inductees included AT&T, which gave $10 million to fund the The Women’s Museum: An Institute for the Future — one of the largest gifts in theworld ever given to a women’s activity. Accepting the award was Cathy Coughlin, senior executive vice presi dent and global marketing officer.

Another company that can trace its supplier diversity roots to the 1960s and where entrepreneurial creativity runs deep is Frito-Lay. At their parent company, PepsiCo’s commitment to women goes all the way to the top where Indra Noovi is CEO. Accepting the award was Larry W Caldwell, vice president of purchasing, PepsiCo.

The third corporate honoree was J.C. Penney Co., whose commitment to relationships is what sustains their strong supplier base and sets them apart as one of America’s leading retailers. Accepting the award were Dennis Miller, senior vice president and controller, and Connie Magers, manager of supplier diversity development.

Executive inductee TXU Corp. Chairman Emeritus Erle Nye’s high level leadership, support of diversity and mentoring ushered in women to management and contracting in the energy industry. Bill Alcorn, former senior vice president, controller and chief procurement officer, J. C. Penney Co., and founding chairman of the board of Women Business Enterprise National Council was the second executive honored for his willingness to step in to the middle of divided forces and bring about cooperation and continued mentoring of women today.

The final eight inductees were women of substance and included: Susan Phillips Bari, the first executive director of WBENC, chief executive officer of the Leader to Leader Institute and professional advocate; Cathy Bonner, founder of The Women’s Museum: An Institute for the Future and cancer advocate; Vivian Castleberry, founding member of the Women’s Center of Dallas, Women’s Issues Network, Dallas Women’s Foundation and global peace advocate; Anita N. Martinez, founder, Anita N. Martinez Ballet Folklorico and long-time community advocate; Candace O’Keefe Mathis, chief executive officer, Foundation for Women’s Resources, and education advocate; Dr. Mamie McKnight, founder, Black Dallas Remembered Inc., education advocate and community historian; Billie Bryant Schultz, president, CESCO Inc., entrepreneurial and community advocate; and Cheryl Stevens, vice president of supplier diversity for Energy Future Holdings Corp., immediate past hairperson of WBENC and advocate for wom en’s initiatives.

“These corporations and individu als were the visionaries during the early years when women were fight ing to be considered legitimate business owners. They were challenging the status quo to have an equal opportunity to bid on contracts with corporations and government, and were working to document the successes and contributions of women in the marketplace, workplace and community,” McKneely said.

Without these leaders and corporations, many of the excellent institutions and opportunities that thousands now enjoy would not be available today.

The WBE Hall of Fame, wbehf.org, is a nonprofit organization recognizing exemplary achievement and leadership in business, government, volunteerism and citizenship. The WBE Hall of Fame awards ceremony will be held each year during the first week of December at The Women’s Museum: An Institute for the Future in Dallas, Texas. Individuals recognized clearly demonstrate a passion for excellence and are true role models for other women and aspiring leaders to emulate.

According to McKneely, “The entire market dynamic has changed over the last 15 years — now we live in niche markets. Eighty-five percent of buying decisions are influenced by women. Taking that demographic for granted no longer exists. Today, companies must consider their real value proposition and how important it is to women and their buying power.”

Women and their role in business has reached a critical mass. Both have come of age. The WBE Hall of Fame advisors and friends believe it is only fitting to honor those who are committed to women business entrepreneurship. The selection committee includes members from the Women’s Enterprise magazine advisory board, WE editorial board, women business owners, community and civic leaders, as well as individuals from corpo rations.