Success Story July 29, 2021 at 12:00 pm

The inspiring profile of Donna James, former Obama adviser now leading Victoria’s Secret board

Abu Mubarik July 29, 2021 at 12:00 pm

July 29, 2021 at 12:00 pm | Success Story

Donna James. Image via columbus.gov

Donna James is a serial entrepreneur, a trusted resource, and an advisor to many corporate leaders in both the public and private sectors. They range from entrepreneurs to leaders in the C-suite executives of Fortune 500 companies.

James, 63, is the president and CEO of Lardon & Associates, a business advisory firm specializing in corporate governance, business strategy and development, human capital management, financial and risk management, and leadership development.

Before starting her own venture, James had a 25-year career with Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. She served in various capacities, including as chief administrative officer, chief human resources officer, assistant to the CEO, and director of operations and treasury services. She also served in the role of president of strategic investments.

James, a certified public accountant (non-practicing), started he career with the Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company as an auditor with Coopers & Lybrand LLP.

She is the founder of Lardon & Associates LLC, where she has served as the president and founder since 2006. The firm is into business development and executive advisory services. She is also the founder of The Center for Healthy Families, a non-profit in Columbus, Ohio.

As a result of her vast knowledge in the corporate world, she is one of the most sought-after personalities to serve on boards of giant corporate bodies. In the past, she served as a director of Time Warner Cable Inc. and Marathon Petroleum, Inc. and as a board advisor to Marathon Petroleum. She also served as an advisor to former President Barack Obama and Congress on the economic growth and development of women business owners. She received her B.S. in Accounting from North Carolina A&T State University.

Recently, she was appointed as the board chair of Victoria’s Secret, a move that has widely been embraced as deepening diversity in America. “We’re embracing change. We’re confronting our past self in the process. And we’re engaging others along the way toward becoming our best selves,” she told ColumbusCEO.

In June, it was announced that she will be leading the seven-member board of six women and one man — CEO Martin Waters. The five women executives joining her are “Irene Chang Britt, former president, Pepperidge Farm and senior vice president with Campbell Soup Co.; Sarah Davis, former president, Loblaw Cos.; Jacqueline Hernández, former chief marketing officer, Hispanic enterprises and content, NBC Universal; Lauren Peters, Former CFO, Foot Locker; and Anne Sheehan, former chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Investor Advisory Committee,” ColumbusCEO reported.

James has received several awards and recognitions, including King Arts Complex Legends Award; Columbus Metropolitan Library Celebration of Learning Award; Columbus Museum of Art Honoree; Center for Healthy Families Honoree; Red Cross Humanitarian of the Year.

Others include the Ohio River Valley Women’s Business Council Trail Blazer Award; the National Historically Black Colleges and Universities Hall of Fame; received the national Beta Gamma Sigma Business Achievement Award and the YWCA Women of Achievement Award.

James is also a recipient of three honorary doctorates from Otterbein University, Tiffin University, and her alma mater, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.

The serial entrepreneur received her bachelor’s degree in accounting from North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University. She is married to attorney Larry James, partner with Crabbe, Brown & James in Columbus, Ohio. Together, they have two adult children, Christopher and Justin, and five grandchildren.

James’ best advice for women in careers is to “assume innocence, but don’t act innocent.”

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