It’s Time To Redefine What We Admire

Aurora Archer
6 min readJun 22, 2021

This week, Fortune released its list of the world’s most admired companies for 2021. The top ten includes familiar names, including eight companies that are ubiquitous in serving a global audience much of the entertainment, technology, and even food that we consume (Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Walt Disney, Starbucks, Alphabet, Netflix, Costco). Two of the world’s best-known financial services companies round out the top ten (Berkshire Hathaway, JPMorgan Chase).

Clearly these ten organizations hold a tremendous amount of influence on global opinion and consumption, and they serve a broad and diverse array of humans across the globe. And yet one thing these companies hold consistently in common is an egregious lack of diversity in their corporate leadership. Of the ten companies listed above, all have a male CEO, and eight of them are white. Two have no gender or ethnic diversity at all (Amazon, Costco). Two have a Black woman in the C-suite (Starbucks, Netflix) although that will reduce to one after Roz Brewer departs Starbucks for the top role at Walgreens. None have anyone of Hispanic heritage and there isn’t a single Black man to be found.

Ten companies serving every color and background of human on the planet, with leadership that reflects only one perspective within those many.

We believe it’s time for corporate America to do better and we similarly believe it’s time for entities like Fortune, who play an important role in shaping global opinion, to shine the spotlight on organizations that should be admired not solely for their share of wallet, but perhaps for the impact they are having on society.

Herewith, we’d like to topple the Top 10 and offer an alternative list. Some are names you undoubtedly know; others should be on your radar. All are using their talents — and in many cases their revenue — to create a more equitable future for the communities they serve, and for all of humankind.

1. Black and Mobile is the first Black-owned food delivery service in the country to exclusively deliver for Black-owned restaurants. Founder and CEO David Cabello started the company in Philadelphia in his early twenties with a mission to circulate money in the Black community. With service now available in Atlanta, Baltimore, and Detroit, the company was recently featured in Pharrell and Jay-Z’s “Entrepreneur” video, and is poised to not only create financial impact for Black-owned restaurants in those cities, but to create thousands of jobs for drivers within the same communities it serves.

2. Ben and Jerry’s has been vocally supportive of a whole host of social justice issues since its founding 43 years ago. Last year, they boldly proclaimed “We Must Dismantle White Supremacy” after the death of George Floyd, launched a podcast about the history of racism, and support a number of activist and non-profit groups who work on the frontlines of social justice. In November the company closed all of its company-owned and operated facilities in the United States on Election Day to encourage its employees to vote. A Certified B-Corp, in 2019, the company’s employee-led grant programs totaled $3 million to support grassroots organizing for social and environmental justice around the country.

3. KweliTV is an interactive, on-demand and live streaming video network focused exclusively on Black and African diaspora content. Black female founder and CEO DeShauna Spencer created Kweli to be a source of authentic storytelling of the Black community from the Black perspective. The idea for Kweli came to her one night as she flipped through TV channels and wondered to herself where all the Black voices were. Part of her mission in founding Kweli is to counteract the representation of Black people in media as criminals. She’s currently working on building a fundraising platform to help Black filmmakers get projects off the ground.

4. Equity Quotient works with leading healthcare organizations, employer groups and academic centers to create cultures of equity, safety and respect. Founded by two female physician leaders — one a woman of color — with more than 15 years of experience across the health care system, they work 1:1 with organizations to help them understand their existing culture, develop specific strategies to gain greater equity, and put frameworks in place for continuous improvement. Co-founder Esther Choo is a widely known science communicator who speaks often about racism and sexism in healthcare.

5. Merck is putting its money where it is desperately needed, pledging a second round of grants, this one work $10 million to fight maternal health inequity in U.S. cities. As part of the pharma giant’s global Merck for Mothers initiative, they will grant money to community-based organizations already involved with supporting at-risk women. The company’s outspoken Black CEO Ken Frazier led a revolt among CEOs as the first to resign from Trump’s American Manufacturing Council in 2017.

6. Guru is a Philadelphia-based knowledge management software platform, and a client of Bellatrix Group. CEO Rick Nucci is the rare white male leader who has been talking openly and loudly about the need to build diverse and inclusive work cultures for years. When the company grew from startup to 30 people and was poised to scale more, he began to think intentionally about how to craft a culture based on core values. Now at over 150 employees, the company is 41% non-male and 21% BIPOC — statistics that come in far above the tech industry as a whole.

7. Brother Vellies is a slow fashion company whose mission is to keep traditional African practices and techniques alive while also creating and sustaining artisanal jobs. It was founded by Black Creative Director Aurora James who last year created the 15% pledge in which she literally called — via Instagram — on the world’s biggest retailers to devote 15% of their shelf space to Black-owned businesses and suppliers. Sephora, Rent the Runway and West Elm are among the major retailers to have signed on to the pledge.

8. Essence Ventures is a Black-owned consumer technology company focused on merging content, community and commerce to meet the evolving cultural and lifestyle needs of people of color. In 2018 the company acquired Essence Communications from Time Inc., reestablishing itself as a 100% Black-owned independent company and giving its female-led executive team an ownership stake in the brand. With a portfolio that includes ESSENCE Communications, Afropunk, Naturally Curly, and others, the company is poised to propel its heritage of celebrating the diverse images and lives of Black women into an international, omni-channel destination for diverse storytelling and original content across beauty, fashion, lifestyle, entertainment and culture.

9. Hoorae Media is the evolution of Issa Rae Productions, where the self-made, breakout star has consolidated her entertainment production ventures for feature film, television and digital. As the creator and star of HBO’s Insecure, Rae is now using her Hollywood clout to reach back and give other creatives the same opportunities she had. She also co-founded ColorCreative to increase opportunities for women and minority writers to showcase and sell their work, both inside and outside the existing studio system.

10. PayPal used its financial muscle to do more than just put out statements in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. The payment platform last year announced a $500 million fund to support Black and minority businesses by strengthening ties with community banks and credit unions serving underrepresented communities. Another $10 million was set aside for grants to assist Black-owned businesses affected by COVID-19, with an extra $5 million to fund program grants and employee matching gifts for non-profits working with Black business owners. Under CEO Dan Schulman the company has for years taken strong stances in support of the BIPOC and LGBTQ communities. In 2016 PayPal pulled out of a new 400-person global operations center in North Carolina to protest against a state law forcing transgender students to use bathrooms according to their biological gender.

In summary, we believe there is an incredible opportunity to broaden our perspective on which leaders and companies we admire to include those that are modeling tenets of the now and future and are not simply a rinse and repeat of the past. Admiration for tenants that include — broader representation at the decision making tables, creating a financial impact that ripples into the broader eco-system and not just the pockets of the few, and a re-balancing in the importance of talent and not just capital.

We dare to believe and uplift an evolution of who and what we admire that includes those who are truly modeling the change of the now versus the status quo of the past.



Aurora Archer

Passionate Type A. Believer in making this life count thru ideas + adding value + always learning + making a difference & change happen. Digital. Marketer.