Bringing Diversity to the Obama Economic Team


Ursula Burns, CEO of Xerox Corp.

Although her former boss, Anne Mulcahy, has been mentioned as a candidate, Burns should be considered for the position of chief economic adviser on her own record. Raised in New York by a single mother, Burns earned two degrees in engineering, then spent her entire career at Xerox. She played a key role in Mulcahy's rebuilding project at Xerox and won the top job in 2009 when Mulcahy stepped down.  


Indra Nooyi, chairman and CEO of Pepsico

Indra Nooyi's selection for the top job at Pepsico was an admission by the boys in Purchase, N.Y., that the company needed a visionary leader to cope with globalization. Nooyi, a native of India, surely brings a worldwide perspective that can be of great value in President Obama's inner circle. Plus, the jocks would have to respect anyone who brought Gatorade under the Pepsi umbrella. 

Andrea Jung, CEO of Avon Products


Andrea Jung has been the chairman and CEO of Avon Products since 1999. If Obama could convince her to take early retirement, her knowledge of a grass-roots-driven cosmetics company would bring unique ground-level insight to a meeting of the president's economic advisers. For someone who has spent decades in the sharp-elbowed world of cosmetics, jockeying for the president's ear in White House meetings should be a breeze.

Jerry Yang, co-founder and former CEO of Yahoo


If President Obama needs someone to unravel the mysteries of the new economy and the impact of the Internet, who better than Jerry Yang, the co-founder and former CEO of Yahoo? Yang saw his Internet startup grow into a giant and then lose its cachet to Google. That's the kind of tough experience a president of the U.S. needs in his entourage. 

John Thompson, former CEO of Symantec


John Thompson has arguably been the most successul African American in the computer industry. After a 28-year career at IBM, he took the leap in 1999 and became CEO of Symantec, a middling software company in Silicon Valley. By the time he retired in 2008, he had quadrupled the company's revenue through acquisitions and growth. Obama was reported to have considered him for commerce secretary. Replacing Larry Summers would be a piece of cake.

Richard Parsons, chairman of CitiGroup and former CEO of Time Warner


Parson's idea of retirement was to leap from CEO of Time Warner to chairman of financial giant CitiGroup in the wake of the Wall Steet meltdown. Any guy with that kind of chutzpah wouldn't hesitate to tell President Obama the truth about the economy. That's the kind of adviser he needs.

Ramani Ayer, former CEO of Hartford Financial Services


Ramani Ayer retired as chairman and CEO of insurance giant The Harford in 2009. A native of India, Ayer worked his way all the way up to the top job at The Hartford. A graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology, he brings a global pespective that is essential in any economic adviser to the president. Ayer can be counted on to stay calm during heated White House debates over the economy: He's a practitioner of transcendental meditation.

Ronald Williams, chair and CEO of Aetna


Williams is a members of the small club of African-American CEOs at Fortune 500 companies. His health insurance company is at the center of the debate on health care reform, so if he chose to retire and advise the president, he could help find ways to actually make the health care reforms work.

Kenneth Chenault of American Express


Call Chenault the quiet man on Wall Street. Another low-key black CEO (do blacks have to be low-key to win those jobs?), he has deftly guided American Express through the financial perils of the last four years. Haven't seen his name in the headlines, or scandals around Amex? Exactly. A guy who abhors drama would click with Obama.

Clarence Otis of Darden Restaurants


Observers often complain that presidents rely too much for economic advice on academics who have little experience in real life. No such charge can be made against Otis, the CEO of Darden, a "casual dining" chain. His customers feel the pain of the economy first, and that is reflected in his bottom line. 

Rodney O'Neal, CEO and president of Delphi


What better indicator of the health of the economy than auto parts? Renewed auto sales have given Delphi and other parts makers hope. O'Neal, who worked his way to the top of this former GM subsidiary, has also been managing a difficult restructuring of Delphi. Good practice for the complex job of advising President Obama on the economy.

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