Trailblazer Extraordinaire – Paula Madison was the youngest of three children born in Harlem, NY to Jamaican immigrants. Her father, Elrick M. Williams Sr. was a tool and die maker and her mother, Nell Williams was a homemaker. She has two brothers, one of whom is a truck driver and the other is a commodities broker and businessman.
Her first trip out of the United States occurred when her father took her to visit Jamaica. Madison told Contemporary Black Biography (CBB) that while in Jamaica she was inspired by the fact that “people of African descent were very visible in all walks of life: prime minister, high court justice, merchant, police commissioner, etc.”
Madison recently retired from NBC Universal, where she had been executive vice president of diversity as well as a vice president of the General Electric Company (GE). During her 22 years with NBCU, she held a number of successful leadership roles, including president and general manager of NBC4 Los Angeles, Los Angeles regional general manager for NBCU’s Telemundo TV stations and vice president and news director of NBC4 New York.
After graduating Vassar College, her early career was spent as a newspaper reporter in New York and Texas, then a TV news manager and executive in Dallas, Tulsa and Houston. She returned to her native New York City as NBC4’s assistant news director, becoming the station’s vice president and news director in March 1996.
In 2007, she was appointed to lead diversity for NBCU. It was the first time a company officer assumed a full-time responsibility as the business-lead for diversity. That same year, Madison was named a company officer for GE, then the parent company of NBCU, now operated by the Comcast Corporation.
She is currently a partner in Williams Group Holdings LLC, a Chicago-based, family-owned company, which has significant investments in media (The Africa Channel), a sports franchise (the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks), and various real estate, consumer, financial and trading businesses. As chairman and CEO of the Sparks, she’s also a member of the WNBA Board of Governors.
In 2005, Madison was named one of the “75 Most Powerful African Americans in Corporate America” by Black Enterprise magazine and was included in the Hollywood Reporter’s “Power 100.” In June 2012, she was profiled by Broadcasting & Cable magazine as one of 12 most powerful women in sports television. She was also recently honored for her philanthropy by the Jenesse Center, a shelter for families plagued by domestic violence.
Contributed by the Institute of Caribbean Studies