The Awesome Profile of Sharon Bowen, Who is Now the First Black Woman to Chair the NYSE board.
Corporate America is gradually recognizing the need to diversify and put Black people at the helm of affairs, albeit at a snail’s pace. In recent months, some outstanding Blacks have been deservedly appointed to head Fortune 500 firms and appointed onto high-profile boards.
For instance, Starbucks in 2020 appointed Mellody Hobson to head its board, making her the only African-American woman to chair the board of a Fortune 500 company. Similarly, Walgreens named Rosalind “Roz” Brewer as its new CEO, making her the only Black woman leading a Fortune 500 company.
Bowen’s years of diverse corporate and transactional practice dates back to 1982 when she started her career as an associate at Davis Polk & Wardwell. She later joined Latham as a senior corporate associate in the summer of 1988 and became a partner in January 1991.
Since then, her practice has included corporate, finance and securities transactions for large global corporations and financial institutions, according to her profile on the CFTC. Such transactions include mergers and acquisitions, private equity, securities offerings, strategic alliances, corporate restructurings, leveraged finance, securitizations, distressed debt and asset acquisitions and venture capital financings.
In her firm Latham, Bowen served in several leadership positions such as co-chair of the Diversity Committee, co-chair of the Diversity Hiring Subcommittee and co-founder and head of Latham’s Women Enriching Business (WEB) Task Force, whose mission is to create broader networks and productive business development relationships for women, according to CFTC.
In 2014, she became the first African American to be appointed as Commissioner of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission under the Obama administration. Before that, she was confirmed by the Senate and appointed by President Obama to serve as Vice-Chair and Acting Chair of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC).
Her talent and work ethics keep attracting the best jobs that corporate America has to offer. On Monday, December 13, 2021, she was named chair of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), making her the first Black woman to hold the position.
The NYSE is a deep-rooted Wall Street fixture with a combined capitalization of $36 trillion and 2,400 listed companies. Bowen, who is already a member of the boards of ICE and the NYSE, served from 2014 to 2017 as a commissioner at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission overseeing futures markets, according to rfl.
Born in Chesapeake, Virginia, Bowen is regarded as one of the top Black lawyers in America who has been involved in several pro bono, educational, diversity and civic matters throughout her career.
Bowen holds a BA in Economics from the University of Virginia, a JD-MBA from Northwestern University and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management.
Promoting diversity has always been an important part of her career and worldview, she recently said in remarks before the Commodity Markets Council.
“Why is diversity important? Think about it: who is buying and driving the demand for commodities? Surely, these consumers are not homogenous. So how can we achieve real growth and economic opportunity without women and minorities at the table?
“Promoting diversity should not be treated as a nice addition to your substantive work, but as an essential part of it,” she said.
“In order to promote diversity, companies need to get buy-in from all relevant stakeholders for the diversity initiative and foster an environment that lends itself to inclusion,” Bowen advised.