Toni Townes-Whitley becomes 2nd Black female Fortune 500 CEO, and the first in the national defense sector

BY Preta Peace Namasaba October 13, 2023 2:14 PM EDT
Toni Townes-Whitley. Photo credit: SAIC

Toni Townes-Whitley has officially taken over as the CEO of Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC), a technology integrator. She joined the company on 12th June as CEO-elect succeeding Nazzic S. Keene, a rarity of a female CEO handing over to another woman at a large corporate entity. This makes Townes-Whitley one of two Black women currently running Fortune 500 companies.

I am honored to bring my passion for driving our nation’s digital transformation to this extraordinary company that is positioned at the intersection of mission critical government programs at a time of evolving, multi-dimensional global threats. SAIC is on a solid growth trajectory with an expanding solutions portfolio, positive financial trends and a culture of serving its customers with integrity, and I look forward to building on the company’s momentum.

Toni Townes-Whitley in Business Wire

Following the resignation of Walgreens’ Rosalind Brewer, Thasunda Brown Duckett was the only Black woman leading a Fortune 500 company for a while. Not only is Townes-Whitley a member of the extremely exclusive Fortune 500 CEO club, but she is also the first African-American female CEO on the Fortune 500 in the National Defense sector. She brings 35 years of experience in the technology industry to SAIC.

Townes-Whitley is responsible for driving the company’s growth and oversees more than 24,000 employees. A member of SAIC’s Board of Directors, she intends to diversify the identity of the business. Currently, the technology integrator firm provides services in the defense, space, civilian and intelligence markets, with the U.S. government being its leading client. Ranked at number 479 by Fortune 500, the company generates $7.7 billion in annual revenue.

This is an opportunity for me not only as a female but as an African American female. 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?

Toni Townes-Whitley in Fast Company

Before SAIC, Townes-Whitley served as the President, US Regulated Industries at Microsoft. She was in charge of over 5000 employees and $16 billion in annual revenue. Apart from leading Microsoft’s US sales strategy for driving digital transformation in the public sector and regulated industries, she was fundamental in driving the company’s internal and external initiatives aimed at addressing racial injustice. She previously served as Corporate Vice President, Industry at

From 2010, Townes-Whitley served as the President of CGI Federal, an IT consulting service. She was in charge of 6,600 employees in over 70 countries with a portfolio exceeding $1 billion. She also served as Senior Vice President, Federal. Before CGI, she held various management positions at Unisys Corporation and the Federal Civilian group, where she grew the company’s revenue fivefold.

The daughter of a retired 3-star Army general, Townes-Whitley graduated from Princeton University with a Bachelor’s degree in Public Policy & Economics. She volunteered with the US Peace Corps for three years as a village teacher in Gabon. She serves on the boards of the PNC Financial Services Group, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, and the United Way Worldwide. Townes-Whitley is an advisor to the Women’s Center of Northern Virginia and the former president of Women in Technology.