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Recognize & Celebrate businesses & people

Great Living Cincinnatians: Honorees

Celebrating the leadership, vision, tenacity, and love of community shared by the recipients of the Great Living Cincinnatian Award, presented annually by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber since 1967.

Janet B. Reid, Ph.D.

Awarded In 2023

Dr. Janet Reid loves people. The founder of BRBS World, LLC, a global management consulting firm, a former PhD chemist and brand manager at Procter & Gamble, a past university faculty member; through it all, Reid has worked with and studied people.

“Many years ago, someone asked, ‘How did you go from chemistry in the innovation division at P&G to people-related management consulting? You must love people-chemistry’,” said Reid.

A 1975 graduate of Howard University, with a BS in chemistry, Reid skipped getting an MS, testing straight into the school’s PhD program, from which she graduated with a PhD in bioinorganic chemistry in 1979. Upon graduation, she had job offers from ten global corporations, including Procter & Gamble. Reid declined them all, becoming a chemistry instructor at Virginia Union University before being wooed to Cincinnati to work for Procter & Gamble. Her time as the first Black female chemist P&G, in an era when women (much less women of color) were still primarily relegated to secretarial work, opened the door for her people-work, where she became an early, vocal advocate of diversity and inclusion.

Seven years into her P&G tenure, at the behest of P&G CEO John Smale and under the tutelage of future P&G CEO John Pepper, Reid transferred from product development to marketing, surrounded by colleagues who were freshly minted Ivy League-MBAs. That is to say, folks she didn’t have too much in common with, at first glance.

“I’d never taken a business course in all my life,” said Reid. “I learned a lot very quickly about how to run a business. My colleagues also benefitted from my tenure and learned company culture very quickly. It was a huge lesson in thinking diversity, education, cultural and racial diversity. At one time, I was the only African-American on the whole floor. It taught me the power of diversity and inclusion, and the power of bringing together disparate pieces into a new whole.”

She helped found the predecessor to P&G’s African American Leadership Network in the early 1980s, and held early conversations that led to the formation of P&G’s first LGBTQ+ employee resource group.

“A whole lot of things shaped my thinking about what companies can do to leverage the diversity that’s there by being inclusive,” said Reid. “When I finally did leave Procter to focus on diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, I founded Global Lead with Samuel Lynch and Vincent Brown. There were maybe four or five firms in the United States doing work in this area. Now there are so many, I don’t even know who they all are. It was pioneering. It was a new, tough and often unpopular concept.”

Even before the corporate hurdles she overcame, there were a few personal ones, too, as a self-described “cripplingly shy” kid with a speech impediment. The daughter of educators, Reid was exposed to a host of international students who stayed with her family, opening her perspective from an early age to the value of diversity of thought and experience.

“When I look at it from a brain formation perspective, that experience shaped my thinking about people’s differences and similarities, and the amazing benefit that comes from building relationships with people who aren’t like you,” she said.

Prior to founding BRBS in 2010, Reid was the founder, managing partner, and director of the international management consulting firm Global Novations, LLC., which launched in 1987 as J.B. Reid and Associates. Reid and her companies consulted on diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging in over 40 countries and on every continent except Antarctica. She co-authored three books on the subject with business partner Vincent Brown. Goldman Sachs and other private equity firms invested in the company before it was eventually sold to Korn Ferry in 2010.

“It’s very natural to be with people who are like you,” said Reid. “It takes effort and curiosity to seek meaningful relationships with people whose opinions, world-views, lived experiences, values and/or cultures are very different. We have to listen to the other side with respectful empathy. That’s not very natural for most people. Developing that skill is beneficial to our city, region, country and world.”

Reid has served on numerous boards, including, among many others: The Ohio State University, the Wexner Medical Center, the YWCA, Xavier University, Bon Secours Mercy Health, P&G’s External Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council, the United way, Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce, and the United Way of Greater Cincinnati.

“Service is in my blood – it was in my parents’ blood,” she said. “The reason I appreciate serving on boards is the multiplying factor. You can do impactful things as an individual, but through wide-reaching organizations, there’s scale.”

To that end, after over 160 year, Reid was the first woman and first person of color to serve as board president of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, in 2004.

“These are glass-ceiling-cracking types of things that, when I look now, I feel that if a person like me is the ‘first’, they should not be the ‘last’,” she said. “We need to make sure other people who can contribute to the organization are granted the same types of leadership positions.”

Her efforts have been recognized by several organizational awards, including: Laureate of The Greater Cincinnati Business Hall of Fame, Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year, Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber WE Celebrate Pinnacle Award, Leadership Cincinnati Distinguished Alumni Award, Cincinnati Youth Collaborative Dream Maker, YWCA Career Woman of Achievement, and Cincinnati Enquirer Woman of the Year.

“I don’t look at it as, ‘I did this or that’,” said Reid. “I look at it as, many prior generations who didn’t have my opportunities poured into me. I am the culmination of their struggles and sacrifice. When it is my turn to lead, whatever commendation I receive, I must do my best in honor of them. I am obliged to mentor and pour into the next generation, and they must do so for the next. That’s how we all progress together.

Now, as a Great Living Cincinnatian honoree, the same duty applies.

“I am humbled by this award, and to be in the company of so many amazing past and present honorees,” said Reid.

“While it is given to individuals, I see it as a testimony to our region. When my family and I moved to Cincinnati, the Ku Klux Klan still erected their cross on Fountain Square every year. So for a city to progress to where it is now means there are Great Cincinnatians who are willing to make things better for everyone. This place is not perfect. But we have unique, wonderful assets that distinguish us. We should always work to become the place that values the diversity of its citizens and visitors, and increases equity and inclusion. It will take the efforts of the Great Cincinnatians honored by this award, together with everyone who cares about this city.”

Nominate a Great Living Cincinnatian

Recipients are selected from candidates by the Cincinnati Chamber’s senior council based on the following criteria: – Community service – Business and civic attainment on a local, state and national or international level – Leadership – Awareness of the needs of others – Distinctive accomplishments that have brought favorable attention to their community, institution or organization