Toni Townes-Whitley recently joined the list of Black business executives heading Fortune 500 companies. She has become the CEO of Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC), a Virginia-based Fortune 500 technology company that supports government agencies, intelligence services, and the Department of Defense, according to Fortune.
She becomes one of two black women currently serving as Fortune 500 CEOs, the platform said. The other is TIAA CEO Thasunda Brown Duckett. Walgreens chief Rosalind “Roz” Brewer resigned three months ago. According to Reuters, the separation was mutual.
Townes-Whitley took over from former SAIC chief Nazzic Keene. Her appointment was announced in May and she became “CEO-elect” in June this year.
“I was with the other female in our duo just a few days ago,” she said of Duckett, “And we were talking about the importance of how we show up and that we have a greater pipeline into these roles.”
“This is an opportunity for me not only as a female but as an African American female,” said the CEO who has served in financial services, healthcare, state and local government, as well as higher education. “We’ve never had an African American female as a CEO in national security. And yet, if you look at our security forces, they’re quite diverse. And so, we’ve got to ask ourselves, both by sector and by size of company, why are we not building that pipeline?”
Prior to joining SAIC, Townes-Whitley was Microsoft’s president of U.S. regulated industries, with an $11 billion P&L. SAIC on the other hand has $7.7 billion in annual revenue and a No. 479 ranking on the Fortune 500.
She assumes her new role with a clear understanding that SAIC is undervalued. “I’m starting with a hypothesis that this company, with its rich legacy and its current portfolio, is undervalued by the market,” she told Inc.com. “And it is also slightly misunderstood. How do we differentiate? What is our unique capability? I think we have to articulate that better, and we actually have to execute against it.”
Townes-Whitley said in the interview that she had hired a chief innovation officer coming right out of the Air Force who is “going to bring some real-world perspective to our portfolio, how we go to market, and how we introduce more innovation to our customers.”