Phenomenal Women

Published on January 9th, 2011 | by thevyne

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Woman to Watch: Mary Beth West

Photo Courtesy of Columbia University

Occupation: Executive Vice President and Chief Category and Marketing Officer, Kraft Foods Inc.

Education: BS in Management – Nazareth College of Rochester, MBA – Columbia University.

Hometown: Rochester, NY (currently resides in the Chicagoland area)

Finding Herself: Mary Beth was adopted by a white couple and was the youngest and only Black of five children (three of her siblings were also adopted).  She described herself as “three-quarters black and one-quarter Polish, light-skinned, with white brothers and white sisters.” (Chicago Tribune). For her, identifying herself as “black” helped her feel more comfortable in her own skin.

Career Path: After graduating with her MBA from Columbia in 1986, Mary Beth started her career as an Associate Product Manager for Maxwell House coffee (was part of General Foods prior to merging with Kraft). She held numerous marketing positions with Kraft, and her career continued to steadily advance with increasing responsibility. By the time she was 39 years old, she was already running a $1billion division. Prior to her current role, Mary Beth was Group Vice President, Kraft Foods and President, North America Beverages Sector.

Family Life: She is married to husband, Hiry, and has three children

Giving Back: Mary Beth is involved with a nonprofit organization called Off The Street Club which targets high-risk youths in Chicago.

Boards and Memberships: Board of Directors for J.C. Penney, member of the Executive Leadership Council.

Recognition: Minority MBA’s Next Generation of Business Leaders, Crain’s Chicago Business “40 under 40” (2001).

Quotable: “Being different is an incredible asset… It gives me a perspective on diversity and the power diversity can bring to the workplace…The more different perspectives in the room, the better endpoint you’ll get to — richer, deeper, more compelling.” (Chicago Tribune, July 13, 2009)

Interesting facts: She is an avid musician (plays the violin, saxophone and piano), competed in equestrian show jumping, and used to be a foxhunter (drag hunting, not live hunting).

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