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Two BU alums are among those named to Fortune’s 20th annual “Most Powerful Women in Business List.” Aetna president Karen Lynch (Questrom’99) secured the 21st spot and NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment Group chair (and 2017’s Commencement speaker) Bonnie Hammer (CGS’69, COM’71, SED’75, Hon.’17) was 47th.
Fortune editors, who published the list in October 2017, consider four factors: the size and importance of the women’s business in the global economy, the health and direction of the institution, the arc of the women’s career (résumé and potential future), and the women’s social and cultural influence.
As president of healthcare benefits company Aetna, Lynch oversees businesses that account for more than 95 percent of Aetna’s revenues. Under her leadership, Aetna’s stock reached a record high in 2017, despite, as the magazine points out, “a federal judge [blocking] the insurer’s acquisition of [rival insurance company] Humana.” Lynch became president in January 2015 (she is the first woman in the company’s 164-year history to serve in that role), after having been executive vice president and head of specialty products. She is now one of the most senior women in the health insurance industry.
Lynch has been recognized by numerous organizations and publications for her leadership, including being named among the Top 25 Women in Healthcare by Modern Healthcare in 2017. She is a director of US Bancorp, a trustee of the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford, Conn., and an advisory board member of NEADS/Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans, a nonprofit that enables independence for people through canine assistance.
Prior to joining Aetna, she held executive positions at Cigna and Magellan Health Services. She began her career with Ernst & Young as a certified public accountant after earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting at Boston College and an MBA at BU.
When Hammer delivered the 2017 Commencement address on Nickerson Field last May, the Hollywood Reporter’s “Most Powerful Woman in Entertainment” offered graduates advice on how to construct the narrative for a successful postcollege life. She drew on her own experience overseeing one of the television industry’s most successful cable network portfolios, which includes USA Network, Syfy, Bravo, Oxygen, and E! Entertainment.
“Even in an increasingly challenged traditional TV landscape, Hammer’s star continues to rise,” Fortune writes. “In 2016 her division increased in both profit and revenue for the 13th consecutive year. Some 113.5 million weekly viewers tuned in to watch the 137 original programs available on her channels.” Hammer recently renewed her contract with NBCUniversal Entertainment, according to the magazine.
Fortune started its annual “Most Powerful Women” list in 1998. Among 2017’s leaders are General Motors chair and CEO Mary Barra (first on the list), Pepsi chair and CEO Indra Nooyi (second), and Lockheed Martin chair, president, and CEO Marillyn Hewson (third).