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Two Alums Make Fortune’s “Most Powerful Women in Business List”

Aetna’s Karen Lynch and NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment Group’s Bonnie Hammer


Fortune recently published its 20th annual “Most Powerful Women in Business List,” and two BU alums are among this year’s names.

Aetna president Karen Lynch (Questrom’99) secured the 21st spot and NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment Group chair (and this year’s Commencement speaker) Bonnie Hammer (CGS’69, COM’71, SED’75, Hon.’17) came in at 47th.

The magazine acknowledges that while female CEOs set a Fortune 500 record this year, with women holding 32 of the top jobs, issues around sexual harassment at companies like Uber and at Fox News also dominated headlines (the issue went to print before the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke). That said, the editors note that “in these pages you’ll see progress, even if it seems frustratingly slow.”

Fortune editors consider four factors when compiling the list: 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 health care 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 this year, 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 earlier this year. 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 this year’s leaders are General Motors chair and CEO Mary Barra (number one), Pepsi chair and CEO Indra Nooyi (second), and Lockheed Martin chair, president, and CEO Marillyn Hewson (third).

Amy Laskowski, Senior Writer at Boston University Marketing & Communications editorial department
Amy Laskowski

Amy Laskowski can be reached at amlaskow@bu.edu.

One Comment on Two Alums Make Fortune’s “Most Powerful Women in Business List”

  • Paul on 10.23.2017 at 9:25 am

    Sadly, my first thought upon seeing this headline was, “I bet they’ve got some stories they could tell about sexual harassment in the workplace.” Given how much I’ve been learning from women I know since the #MeToo campaign started, I can’t imagine that either of these alums made it to where they are now without some pretty unpleasant experiences along the way. Here’s hoping that the rising generation of women leaders in all fields – and the ones that come after – face fewer and fewer obstacles to their talent, skills, and knowledge.

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