Born in Nashville, Tennessee, to father Corris Landers Jennings and Rebecca Bonham, Barbara Landers Bowles attributes much of her success to the support of her family, which has grown to include her husband, Earl Stanley Bowles, and son, Terrence Earl. Early on, from the ages of 10 to 14, she worked with her mother at her credit union reconciling their numbers, and by the time she reached high school she had fallen in love with mathematics. From there, she joined Fisk University, earning a Bachelor of Arts in mathematics in 1968. Not really knowing what she wanted to do for a career as she approached graduation, she attended a company meeting that led to her attaining a position at the First National Bank of Chicago, first as a bank trainee and eventually rising to the position of vice president between 1968 and 1981. During that time, Ms. Bowles continued her studies at the University of Chicago, where she obtained a Master of Business Administration in 1971, and she has been a certified financial analyst since 1978.
From 1981 to 1984, Ms. Bowles was the assistant vice president of Beatrice Companies, Inc. before serving as the vice president of investor relations of Kraft Inc., now the Kraft Heinz Company, from 1984 to 1989. Founding the Kenwood Group in 1989, she served as the chair, president and chief executive officer until 2006, when she became the vice chair of Profit Investments until 2008. Since 2008, she has been the president of the Landers Bowles Family Foundation, and also spent time as chair of the board at Fisk University from 2013 to 2017, where she has been a trustee since 1998. While she is mostly retired as an investment executive, Ms. Bowles remains active as a consultant and speaker in her field and is currently working on a presentation about how to get on a corporate board for her sorority.
Involved in her community as well, Ms. Bowles serves on the board of directors of Hospira, the WEC Energy Group and the Museum of Science and Industry, and previously contributed her skills to the boards of the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and the Chicago Urban League and as a council member of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. She has also been incredibly active with Women Corporate Directors, an international organization that promotes women leaders and directors, and has been co-chair of the visionary committee for their annual Visionary Awards since 2019. Furthermore, Ms. Bowles is a lifetime member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Believing that everything you do in life leads to progress, Ms. Bowles is incredibly proud of having owned and operated her own investment management company for 18 years. Other notable achievements of hers include presenting the Visionary Award to the former chief executive officer at Pfizer in 2021 through her role as co-chair of the visionary committee of Women Corporate Directors, being the first African American woman vice president of the First National Bank of Chicago, and being one of the youngest graduates from the scholar program at the University of Chicago.
For her excellence, Ms. Bowles has been the recipient of a number of honors and accolades. Most recently, she was recognized among the African American Pioneers in the Last 50 Years by Black Enterprise in 2020. She has also been presented with the prestigious Albert Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award, which is the highest honor conferred by Marquis Who’s Who. In light of all her accomplishments, Ms. Bowles has been featured in Who’s Who in Finance and Business, Who’s Who in Finance and Industry, Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in Corporate America, Who’s Who in the Midwest, Who’s Who in the World and Who’s Who of America Women.