Essence is a popular American monthly lifestyle magazine covering fashion, culture, beauty and entertainment. Established in 1970 with a focus on African-American women, it commands a monthly readership of over a million people. In this article, WoK brings you the story of Essence magazine CEO Caroline Wanga.
Caroline A. Wanga was born in 1979 in Kisumu County. She grew up within the vicinity of Kenyatta University since her parents – Dr. Pamela Obondi Wanga and Dr. Lucas Wanga were professors at the institution. She attended Kenyatta University primary school before relocating to the United States with her mother in 1988. At the time, her father was pursuing a doctorate degree in educational psychology at the University of Minnesota. She attended Texas College but dropped out after she got pregnant, at the age of 17, with her daughter Cadence.
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“After that happened, I became indignant that this wasn’t going to end my plan to success,” she told cnbc.com.
“The barrier to the degree was not the program……… “It was my life. I had this little girl and I was not going to ask for help because I’m going to prove I could do this on my own”, Wanga told the same publication.
Still thirsting for an education, she went on to enrol at Texas University in 2003 at the age of 25.
In June 2004, Caroline Wanga worked as a bookstore manager at Texas College, a position she held for eleven months. Thereafter she joined Target – a distribution company where she worked her way up the corporate ladder over a 15 year period. From June 2005 to August 2005 she served as Warehouse Operations intern before getting promoted to be the Outbound Operations Manager. In October 2006, she became the Project Manager, Distribution Planning and Engineering, Food Distribution Operations for 2 years and 8 months.
In June 2009, she was once again promoted to become the human resource manager, real estate, construction and store planning, a position she held for 1 year and 7 months. In January 2011, she became the Human Resource Manager, Business Intelligence and Analytics and a year later she was appointed as Group Manager, Human Resources. In August 2013 she became the Senior Group Manager, Human Resources before becoming a Director, Diversity & Inclusion a year later.
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In August 2015, she became Senior Director, Diversity & Inclusion and four months later the Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility. In January 2016 she was promoted to become the Vice President Human Resources and in July 2019 she became the Chief Culture, Diversity & Inclusion officer.
She finally called it a day at Target and joined Essence Ventures in June 2020 as Chief Growth Officer for one month before being named as the interim Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Caroline confirmed CEO of Essence Communications Inc in February 2021 which is the parent company of the Essence magazine. Essence is an independent black-owned consumer technology company focused on merging content, community and commerce to meet the evolving cultural and lifestyle needs of black Americans.
“Caroline will work with team leads across the organization and run the day-to-day operations as well as oversee the independent review system,” read a statement from the company.
“I could not be more excited for the opportunity to lead this cornerstone of black culture into its next phase of growth, innovation and impact alongside this incredible team of national and global reckoning on the systemic injustices that we face as black women and as a black community,” Caroline said in her acceptance speech.
Apart from leading Essence, Caroline is the founder of WangaWomanLLC – an organization that seeks to empower individuals and organizations to strategize how purpose feeds career, workplace and interpersonal relationships.