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All about Caroline Wanga, CEO of Essence Magazine

If you think Lupita is the only woman from the Luo land flying the Kenyan flag high, it’s time to get acquainted with Caroline Wanga.

Well, Caroline is one of the Kenyan-born individuals who have successfully settled in the US and managed to scale unimaginable heights professionally.

Caroline didn’t have a smooth landing career-wise, making her story unique and inspiring because of the life hurdles she had to overcome and eventually become one of the most celebrated black women in the US.

It is global knowledge that women of color do not have as much privilege as their white counterparts regarding promotions and being granted leadership roles in workplaces.

However, Caroline has effortlessly dismantled that stereotype and proved why she deserves roles that have, for the longest time, been reserved for men and whites.

So, how did Caroline Wanga, a girl born in Kisumu four decades ago, achieve all she has today, and what achievements are we talking about?

This guide will help you know Caroline better, and if this is the first time you are reading about her, you will feel like you’ve known her all along once you are done.

 Let’s get started with a profile summary to help you paint a picture of the powerhouse that is Caroline.

Caroline Wanga Profile Summary

Full NameCaroline A. Wanga
ParentsDr. Pamela Obondi and Dr. Lucas Wanga
Siblings3 Brothers (one deceased in 2018)
Children1 Daughter, Cadence Daniels
ProfessionCEO Essence Ventures
Social Media@wangawoman (Instagram)

Caroline’s Early Life

Caroline was born in Kisumu 43 years ago.

Her mother, Dr. Pamela Obondi Wanga, comes from Kisumu, while her father, Dr. Lucas Wanga, hails from Mumias.

Caroline was raised alongside her three brothers in the confines of Kenyatta University because her parents were lecturers at the Institution.

Her father left for the US to study for a Doctorate Degree at the University of Minnesota, and his family followed him later.

Caroline was 12 when her mother and her three brothers relocated to America to join their father.

It was difficult fitting into a new system, but Caroline had no other option.

So, how did Caroline’s education pan out in America?

Caroline Wanga’s Education Background

At age 17, Caroline had to cut short her college education after she became pregnant with her first and only child, Cadence.

She gave birth to her daughter in 1995, forcing her to relinquish her college education and look for a job to feed her.

While working full-time, Caroline struggled to find a college with a flexible studying routine that would favor her as a single mom.

Wanga was determined to resume her undergraduate studies, and her breakthrough came in 2003 when she managed to enroll in Texas College under the institution’s Single Parent Support System program.

Under the program, Caroline had access to meals, transport, and housing.

This complimentary package significantly came through as a single mom who desired to meet her daughter’s needs and achieve her education goals simultaneously.

Besides studying and raising her daughter, Caroline also worked as a bookstore manager at the college.

 It took Caroline two and half years to complete her studies, graduating with a bachelor’s in Business Administration in 2005.

With her degree, Caroline was ready to immerse herself in the career world.

Time to take a look at her career journey, including her current venture.

Caroline Wanga’s Career Timeline

Before you start reading through Caroline’s career advancement, a reminder that you are about to get your mind blown away by her unapologetic rise to the ranks within 15 years.

Like most graduates, Caroline sought an internship and was absorbed by the Target franchise, Texas branch, as a warehouse operations intern.

After three months into the internship, Caroline earned her first promotion, appointed as the Outbound Operations Manager, a role she diligently served for 1 year and 3 months.

 She outperformed her role, and her next promotion came calling in 2006; Project Manager, Distribution Planning and Engineering, and Food Distribution Operations.

After 2 years and 8 months, Caroline was eyeing another promotion, and she became the branch’s Human Resource Manager, Real Estate, Construction & Store Planning, from 2009 to 2010.

By now, you must have noticed that some of Caroline’s appointments weren’t associated with the course she studied in college, proof that not even academic limitations could hold her back in the career ladder.

In 2011, Caroline’s Human Resource Manager Role shifted to Business Intelligence and Analytics.

After a year, Caroline rose in the ranks again to become Group Manager, Human Resources, lasting 1 year and 5 months before her next promotion came knocking.

 She got into the role of a Senior Group Manager, Human Resources, and the promotions that followed suit include Director, Diversity and Inclusion, and Senior Director, Diversity and Inclusion.

Her last two promotions at Target were the Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Vice President of Human Resources, and the Chief Culture, Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Vice President of Human Resources.

Caroline’s time at Target was outstandingly rewarding because very few black women can pull off consecutive promotions at an American franchise like Target as she did.

At this point, you are wondering where Caroline is headed next after building a successful career at Target.

The time was ripe for Caroline to test new waters career-wise, and that’s how she ended up in a different career world, media.

Caroline as Essence CEO

Does Essence ring a bell to you?

 If not, Essence is a black-owned media powerhouse aiming at empowering and amplifying the needs of the black community in all aspects, including entertainment, beauty, and culture.

Essence Ventures was rocked by abusive work culture claims in 2020, prompting the management to make leadership changes, and that’s how Caroline ended up being named the brand’s interim CEO.

Caroline described herself in a past interview as someone who loves to work in challenging environments.

Earning a top leadership position at Essence when it was facing serious accusations was exactly what she needed in her career because, according to her, she quickly gets bored when her roles don’t involve finding solutions.

Her work experience at Target played a pivotal role in the Essence appointment.

After 8 months of serving as the interim CEO, Caroline was confirmed as the brand’s CEO, coupled with another appointment as the Chief Growth Officer.

Caroline Wanga Other Career Achievements

Besides her primary career position at Essence, Caroline serves in other capacities in different appointments.

She owns WangaWoman LLC alongside her daughter, Cadence.

The company’s services are tailored to help organizations and individuals fulfill their purpose by democratizing authenticity.

Caroline also serves as a member of McDonald’s Diversity Marketing Advisory Council.

Caroline’s second council membership is at American Airlines.

If there is a word to define Caroline Wanga in corporate America, unstoppable would suit her.

We have finally exhausted Caroline’s career achievements, but you can count on this page to provide an update once she hits another professional milestone.

Caroline’s Recognitions and Awards

Having gone through Caroline’s decorated career, it wouldn’t be a surprise to learn that she has been honored and awarded severally.

She epitomizes intelligence, hard work, leadership, authenticity, and several other characteristics that can’t go unrecognized for a thriving black woman in corporate America.

Texas College, where Caroline studied for her undergraduate degree, was the first institution to award her an Honorary Doctorate in May 2021.

Caroline’s second award, the Helping Hand Award, came from Steve and Majorie Harvey Foundation in January 2023, recognizing her efforts towards empowering ‘Girls of Color’ and women in general.

A month later, Caroline received Anthem Awards for Business Leader of the Year, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.

The February award recognizes Wanga’s voice of change that inspires workplaces to embrace inclusivity and diversity.

It seems like Caroline Wanga’s helm at Essence is attracting her the recognition she deserves because she earned her second Honorary Doctorate from Dillard University in May 2023.

It is great to see Caroline’s undisputed influence being noted and honored, and by the look of things, she will collect more awards in the future.

Now, time to focus on Caroline Wanga’s personal life.

Caroline Wanga’s Family; Is She Married?

Caroline Wanga has been a single mom since college, and there is hardly any information about the father of her daughter, Cadence.

However, her daughter identifies as @cadencedaniels on Instagram, the closest we can get to knowing the name of the man who could be Cadence’s father.

Caroline loves to keep her love life private, making it hard to confirm if she is dating.

She only posts her daughter and work-related content on her Instagram, leaving no clues about her love life.

The decision to make her love life public lies with her and only time will tell if she will tread that road.

Cadence also remains Caroline’s only child, and at 43, Caroline is at the peak of her career, which means the last on her mind right now is getting a sibling for her daughter.

Has Caroline Ever Sparked Controversy?

Anyone working in the limelight attracts public attention in every move they make, and even a slight slip-up from them is enough to spark a debate and create headlines.

Caroline knows this all too well, and her stay at Essence has been controversy-free.

She joined Essence when it was experiencing an identity crisis following anonymous claims of abusive and toxic work culture.

The claims were raised by former and current employees, who anonymously posted the revelation on Medium, calling for immediate action, such as a complete overhaul of the Brand’s top leadership.

Caroline’s appointment at Essence was in response to the controversy the Media brand had found itself in, so it is safe to say that she was not part of the problem but a solution.

Three years later, at the helm, Caroline is speering the brand in the right direction such that one would think she has been working in the media all her life.

Caroline Wanga’s NetWorth

When you read about a successful career woman like Caroline, it is natural to get curious about their salary and net worth.

Well, no reputable sources are highlighting Caroline’s networth, but we will give you an estimate of what she was earning at Target and what she could possibly be earning at Essence.

According to Glassdoor, Human Resources at Target earn between $51-81K annually.

Caroline worked in Human Resources from 2010 to 2019, making decent money from her salary and in other capacities, she was entrusted with at Target.

Essence Ventures also pays well, with a Director earning as much as $241,985 annually.

Caroline’s salary at Essence is unclear, but she is earning way above what she used to earn at Target.

Kenyalogue Contributor


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