3 black business leaders you need to know

Only 3.2% of the senior leadership roles at large companies in the U.S are black

Corporate America has often been fraught with roadblocks to people of color and other minorities. With the winds of change in the air, we look at some black Americans who have successfully become top business leaders.

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Honorees David Steward (L) and Thelma Steward at Lincoln Center on April 26, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Monica Schipper/WireImage) (Getty Images)

David Steward

David Steward is the chairman of World Wide Technology (WWT). Steward's father was a mechanic and the family faced poverty and discrimination in the then-segregated south in their home of Clinton, Missouri.

After graduating high school, Steward went on to earn his BS degree in business from Central Missouri State University in 1973.

Steward really began his professional career when he took a job at Wagner Electric as production manager, then going on to work at Missouri Pacific Railroad Company, then Federal Express where he was named salesman of the year in 1981.

Steward founded WWT in 1990. The company is an IT provider based in Maryland Heights, Missouri, and it is the largest African-American-owned business in the United States.

WWT lists 70 percent of Fortune 100 companies as customers, including Verizon, Citi and the federal government.

Recent figures place WWT's annual revenue at $12 billion.

HAS CORPORATE AMERICA FAILED BLACK AMERICA?

Retired Chairman and CEO of McDonald's Corporation, Don Thompson attends the Jackie Robinson Foundation Awards Dinner, March 9, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Desiree Navarro/WireImage) (Getty Images)

Don Thompson 

American engineer and business executive Don Thompson is mostly known for his tenure as McDonald's chief executive from 2012 through to 2015.

Thompson was born in Chicago. He later moved to Indianapolis where he completed high school and earned a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering from Purdue University.

Thompson's education led him to work for a military aircraft manufacturer, before joining McDonald's in 1990. This would be the start of a 25-year ascent into the fast-food corporation and business stratosphere.

Thompson moved into operations in 1994 after  working as a project manager and staff director for the quality development department in 1992.

By 2006, he was President of McDonald's USA and McDonald's Restaurants of Canada. And in the following year, Thompson rose into the role of Chief Operating Officer for the global corporation, leading to his appointment as President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of McDonald's Corp in 2012.

Thompson left McDonald's in 2015 to join Beyond Meat's board of directors. In the same year, he founded Cleveland Avenue LLC. Cleveland Avenue accelerates growth for food and drinks businesses.

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Ramona Hood

Ramona Hood, of Cleveland, Ohio, is the CEO of FedEx Custom Critical, but she started out in 1991 as a receptionist at Roberts Express, a company that would become FedEx Custom Critical. As a 19-year-old single mother, Hood wanted a job that better suited her life, which involved caring for her young daughter and taking night classes.

A year later and Hood was working in the safety department. Over the years, Hood worked in many of the company's departments, including operations, marketing, sales and sourcing.

Aside from her determination to succeed, it was her speaking of her interest in leadership, offering strategic solutions and ideas that made her stand out from the crowd.

Hood successfully earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business Management from Walsh University and an executive MBA from Case Western Reserve University Weatherhead School of Management.

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In January 2020, FedEx Custom Critical named Hood as its president and CEO. This move made her the company's first black woman to lead a FedEx operating company.