29 years ago, 19-year-old Ramona Hood was a single mother searching for a consistent day job to support herself and her six-week-old daughter, while simultaneously taking night classes. Aiming to transition from working in retail, Hood landed a steady 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. shift as a receptionist for Roberts Express, which became FedEx Custom Critical. From her start as a receptionist, Hood quickly moved up the corporate ladder to the safety department after 12 months, holding various executive leadership positions at FedEx Custom Critical and FedEx Supply Chain.
Her career path evolved through many areas of the company, including operations, safety, sourcing, sales, and marketing. Hood stated, "It was then that I started to realize the organization was much bigger. I began to really speak about my interest in leadership." Over time, she began offering innovative and strategic ideas that distinguished her from her peers. Hood not only brought unique approaches to the business, but she did so in a way that brought out the best in others. These leadership characteristics and values are ingrained through her past and current leadership roles at FedEx Custom Critical and FedEx Supply Chain. Throughout her career, Hood has been recognized for her outstanding excellence in leadership, responsibility, and passion-driven results in the industry. Hood was recognized by the Greater Akron Chamber with the 30 for the Future award (2010) and acknowledged by Sales & Marketing Executives International with a Distinguished Sales & Marketing Award (2013). Hood earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business Management from Walsh University and an Executive MBA from Case Western Reserve University Weatherhead School of Management.
On January 1, 2020, FedEx Custom Critical announced that Hood assumed the role of president and CEO, which makes her the first African-American woman in the 49-year history to lead a FedEx operating company. FedEx Custom Critical is a leading North American transportation provider located in Green, Ohio. The company provides a range of transportation capabilities for expedited ground and air shipments, temperature-controlled shipments, and industry-specific solutions. The company provides 24/7 service throughout the United States, Canada, and internationally, delivering hundreds of thousands of shipments per year. Now, Hood oversees the FedEx Custom Critical executive leadership team and is responsible for the performance and strategic direction of the company.
Currently, there are only four black CEOs at Fortune 500 companies, and none of them are women. Only two black women have ever led a Fortune 500 company, the first was Ursula Burns, who served as CEO of Xerox from 2009 until 2016, and as chairwoman from 2010 to 2017. Her initial appointment was more than years after the first Fortune 500 list. According to the 2018 Center for Talent of Innovation's "Being Black in Corporate America" report, found that black people account for only 3.2% of senior leadership roles at large corporations, and hold just 0.8% of Fortune 500 CEO positions. The study also found an overall lack of mentorship and access to senior leaders.
Unfortunately, black women tend to receive the least support of all women (and significantly less support than men) from their manager, with just 35% reporting that their managers create opportunities for them to showcase their work, promote their contributions to others, or socialize with them outside of work, according to McKinsey and LeanIn's Women in the Workplace report. In her journey to the c-suite, Hood prioritized the importance of seeking mentorship and having a board of directors. Throughout her career, her board of directors and built-in mentorship team, spoke on her behalf about career opportunities, which in turn helped her grow as a thought leader and future CEO.
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"From the time I accepted the position, to realizing the magnitude of the role itself, it has been exciting. Not only to support the business objectives but being the first and setting an example. I have looked forward to leading a company in my career - it was definitely one of the milestones I hoped to achieve. More importantly, being an African American woman raising two African American women, it is very inspirational for my daughters. One day, my oldest daughter asked me if I was breaking the ceiling. Having that surreal moment with her made me proud of my journey and proud to be part of an organization that values diverse thought," says Hood.
As Hood began strategizing her first-year plan, she developed milestones that started within her first 90 days, intending to gain useful insight from employees, customers, and independent contractors driving FedEx Custom Critical, which morphed into "Ramona Roundtables." However, Hood didn't anticipate incorporating COVID-19 plans into her first 90 days as CEO of FedEx Custom Critical. "Keeping true to the culture of FedEx, our team members have stepped up to make things happen for each other and for our customers. A couple of months ago, we began to look at our business continuity plan. We methodically approached aspects like social distancing, mapping out our strategy to specifically utilize the incoming information from the CDC, WHO, and other leading health organizations to make informed decisions on safety and operations. I've been pretty adept at breaking down complex challenges into smaller situations, examining the data, and then being able to convey that into actionable items for the team. If I look at our current situation, each day, sometimes each hour, brings us a new data point - a new environment. As a leader, I think through the complexity and the uncertainty of the situation, then communicate a plan to my team," says Hood.