Sitting at a sports bar watching NFL football, some guys near me were commenting on all the female reporters covering the games and even hosting their favorite sports talk shows, mainly on ESPN. I held my tongue, not wanting to start something by reminding them that a woman practically runs ESPN. That would be Christine Driessen, Exec VP and CFO.
And then I realized… they’d better get used to it, as women are literally taking over. And it’s happening right now in the good ol’ USA.
Consider this: more women, especially women of color, are running for political office than any other time in this nation’s history, and they are winning. And believe it or not, women now are in leadership roles in just about every major sport, including the NBA, NASCAR, NCAA, the WWE and the NFL.
And in California, three Black women – not just one – represent the state in Washington, D.C.: Rep. Maxine Waters and Rep. Karen Bass in the House, and Sen. Kamala Harris, who by the way, is considered one of the brightest minds in the Democratic Party and a viable candidate to run for President of the United States in the future.
“Black women are stepping up to chase their goals and dreams and change the world because they have gotten tired of waiting on men to do it,” declares Kissy Denise (her real name), an entrepreneur who makes seven figures with her popular lifestyle blog and life coaching business. She is an example of the new woman, one that is not afraid to use social media and modern technology to drive her business.
“They’ve tried so hard to fit in, but now women are waking up and realizing God put them here to do more than raise kids,” Denise continued. “Women have talents and gifts inside that can be shared to heal the world. Those are the women who are going to change the world. It’s a new world and women are in power.”
Back to sports for a bit…
Michele Roberts, a Black woman, is president of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), probably one of the most powerful and lucrative sports unions in the world. In fact, Forbes placed her on top of its annual Most Powerful Women in Sports list, as she oversees about 350 NBA players and more than $3 billion in salaries.
Roberts is known as a legal eagle. She is a graduate of UC Berkley Law School and built her reputation as a trial lawyer with a penchant for justice and a great desire to win.
Over at NASCAR, Lesa France Kennedy is the vice chairman and manages 13 of the country’s largest racetracks and recently oversaw the $300 million renovation of Daytona International Speedway.
Other women on the Forbes list include Christine Driessen, exec VP and chief financial officer of ESPN; Val Ackerman, commissioner of the NCAA’s Big East Conference (and speaking of NCAA, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is the organization’s commissioner of college basketball); Jeanie Buss, who is co-owner and president of the Los Angeles Lakers; Michelle Wilson, co-president of the WWE; and Kim Ng (a woman of Asian-American descent), Sr. VP of baseball operations of Major League Baseball.
Women taking it to the bank
Indeed, the American Dream is still alive and well among women of all colors, including immigrants. Check out the story of Jayshree Ullal, who was born in England and raised in India before coming to the U.S. She is a graduate of San Francisco State University and Santa Clara University. After college, she joined Cisco Systems. She worked her way up the corporate ladder and ended up as CEO of Arista Networks. For the first time, Ullal is on Forbes’ list of billionaires.
Another immigrant who made it to the top of her field and financially is Eren Ozmen, who came to the U.S. from Turkey. She earned an MBA from the University of Nevada, Reno, and went on to become an entrepreneur in the aerospace and defense arena. Ozmen’s net worth this year is $1.5 billion.
More and more Black women are choosing the entrepreneurial route and launching their own brands. Such is the case of Pat McGrath, who now owns and runs a billion-dollar makeup line that has sales beyond the Kardashian line. In fact, according to Entrepreneur.com, Black women businesses are the fastest growing economic force in the country. Writes Entrepreneur in a recent report: “The rapid growth is particularly impressive and hard-won considering the challenges that Black women face as entrepreneurs, including lack of startup capital, resources and loans, along with racial and gender discrimination within the largely white, male-dominated sectors of financing and technology.”
While there are few Black women running Fortune 500 companies, there are several on the move and in position to take the top spot at many of America’s biggest corporations. They include Alicia Boler Davis, who is currently Exec VP of General Motors; Alanna Cotton, VP at Samsung; and Andrea L. Taylor, director of North American Community Affairs, Microsoft. Geri Stengel, research adviser at American Express, advises Black women to follow their dreams.
“My advice for younger women that are starting businesses is to take advantage of all the resources that are out there and join accelerator programs,” she recently told Black Enterprise. “Research programs through the SBA and business centers to evaluate financing.”
Ms. Harris goes to Washington
On the political front, Kamala Harris made a rapid rise to the top from serving as California’s attorney general. As a U.S. Senator, the legal eagle has recently been key in questioning Supreme Court Judge nominee Brett Kavanaugh before the Senate. In fact, several news outlets said of the exchange: “Kamala Harris Grills Kavanaugh,” and another headline read: “Harris’ Abortion Questions Left Kavanaugh Speechless.”
Harris, although considered a rookie by Washington standards, has not been afraid to ask the tough questions and unabashedly state her opinions. On the latest issue regarding Kavanaugh and the reports he sexually assaulted a woman, Harris says she believes “the accuser. She has nothing to gain.” Some Democrats are already calling for Harris to run in 2020 for President. Indeed, the California politico has seen a meteoric rise much like that of former President Barack Obama.
Across the country, meet Ayanna Pressley, an African American who is set to take the Senate seat once held by John F. Kennedy in Massachusetts. Pressley pulled off a surprising victory against 10-year incumbent Michael Capuano. At press time, she stands unopposed in November and would become the first Black woman to represent the state in Congress.
Pressley certainly has the tools to be effective right out of the box and rise to prominence in the Democratic Party. She was a Congressional aide and currently serves on the Boston City Council. Pressley, a Black woman, is a special kind of candidate, one that speaks from being a sexual abuse survivor and being raised by her mother while her dad was incarcerated. One of her campaign slogans hit a chord with Massachusetts voters: “The people closest to the pain should be closest to the power.”
Commenting on why being Black is an important factor, she said, “You cannot have a government for and by the people if it is not represented by all of the people.”
Indeed, come Nov. 7 (the day after elections across the U.S.), Congress, the House and governor and municipal positions nationwide could have a much different look. Our Weekly has already written on Stacey Abrams, a Black woman many believe is on the path to become Georgia’s first Black governor and first female in that office.
Stacey Abrams’ historic run
Abrams has been endorsed by former President Barack Obama, Sen. Kamala Harris and numerous other Black leaders, as well as White leaders such as former Vice President Joe Biden, who is actively campaigning for her. Obviously, the Democratic Party feels Abrams has a bright future in its ranks.
Other women of color on the verge of being part of the change include Lauren Underwood in Illinois, Ilhan Omar in Minnesota, Jahana Hayes in Connecticut and Lucy McBain in Georgia, all nominees in their respective Congressional districts.
In New York, Alexandria Oscasio-Cortez could win a position in the House. She is only 28. Issues she has focused on include immigration policies and health care for all.
Another 28-year-old woman making strides on the political front is Krysten Sinema, who is the Democratic nominee for Sen. Jeff Flake’s seat Arizona. While not a minority, her election would mean she’d become the first openly bisexual women in the nation’s capitol and the state’s first female senator.
Rep. Ilhan Omar already knows what it takes to make history. She became the first Somali-American Muslim elected to office in Minnesota. She hopes to elevate that first to becoming the first Somali-American Muslim to be elected to Congress. Reports Vox: “Omar’s story is particularly resonant given the Trump administration’s crackdown on immigration. Omar fled war-torn Somalia in the early 1990s and lived in a refugee camp in Kenya for four years before moving to the United States.”
In her race for Congress, she’s up against Minnesota state Sen. Patricia Torres Ray, a fellow immigrant. Omar has already been endorsed by her district’s local Democratic Party and is a known entity in national progressive circles, but the outcome of her race is far from certain. If Omar makes it to Washington, there’s a chance she could be one of many Muslim women to do so; she’s part of a group of five, including Rashida Tlaib of Michigan’s 13th District; Fayrouz Saad of Michigan’s 11th District; Tahirah Amatul-Wadud of Massachusetts’s First District; and U.S. Senate candidate Deedra Abboud, running in Arizona.
Talking about women of color: meet Gina Ortiz Jones, running for a House seat in Texas. If elected, she will become the first woman to represent the 23rd District, as well as the first openly lesbian woman to take the seat. She is Filipino American (her mother was an immigrant), who is also an Iraq war veteran.
“Women are angry. They want to be treated with respect and paid equally as well,” says Pat Furno, a political activist who actually marched in the ‘60s. “They’ve realized the power of politics and its ability to enlist change.”
No doubt it’s been a banner year for minorities in the entertainment field as well. In fact, studies recently were released that revealed that the Black consumer is not only becoming stronger, it is also becoming the tastemaker by which film and TV, particularly in the booming business of streaming, is taking after. Our Weekly has in the past pointed out several Black women who have made mega deals to provide original programming to the major streaming networks such as Netflix, and that includes Ava DuVernay, Tyra Banks, Shonda Rhimes and of course, Oprah Winfrey.
Niecy Nash, who has been a co-star on a variety of shows for many years, has landed the first late night talk show led by a Black woman. Tiffany Haddish has exploded on the scene as not only a comic and actress, she is also a content creator.
Just last week, Our Weekly reported on Oscar-award winning actress Halle Berry, now 52, who is venturing into directing with “Bruised,” a drama she is also going to star in about an MMA fighter.
How women in hip hop control their own destinies is the subject of the A3C Conference, now in its 13th year. Founded in 2005, the gathering of women in the industry takes place this year in Atlanta and is designed to “educate and empower the artists, entrepreneurs and creative that shape hip hop culture.”
Most of hip hop’s top female executives are part of the conference and are joining Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms at the city’s Loudermilk Center Oct. 3-7 with Toyota as the main sponsor. Some of those scheduled to participate include Aysa Shein, president of Fusicology; Ethiopa Habtermariam, president of Motown Records; Nicole Bilzerian, head of urban marketing at Interscope; and Whitney-Gayle Benta, head of talent relations at Spotify.
A lot of men are expected to attend too, such as Jermaine Dupri, Steve Stout, and Tuma Basa, director of urban music at YouTube.
Habtermariam is a remarkable story in itself. She is the daughter of immigrants who has an impressive list of signings, including Justin Beiber, J. Cole, Big Sean, Jhene Aiko, Childish Gambino, Miguel and Ciara, just to name a few. This Black beauty has successfully climbed a ladder usually held for men. Habtermariam, who is considered one of the most famous women in music, will be a keynote speaker at the conference.
“This has been a long time coming,” Denise says of the movement toward the empowerment of women. “Women have always had the brains and have been the magic behind many powerful men. So many are now taking all of their brilliant ideas and talent and sharing them with the world. It’s a beautiful thing.”