An all-star cast of leaders and change-makers joined Ros Gold-Onwude to discuss their lives and careers in an ever-changing landscape, presented by Nike.
On Monday evening, Boardroom was live Clubhouse for a very special conversation moderated by Ros Gold-Onwude, host of Boardroom’s “Risk/Reward” video series. The freewheeling discussion focused in on what it means to find your voice in sports, industry, and beyond.
Joining her were Duke Blue Devils head coach Kara Lawson, WNBA champion Natasha Cloud, Sky Blue FC and US National Team forward Midge Purce, WNBPA executive director Terri Jackson, and Black Girl Ventures founder/CEO Shelly Bell.
“As Black women, we need to stop celebrating in silence about our victories,” Gold-Onwude said. “If we don’t celebrate out loud, than no one will know what we did. Let’s celebrate our victories. Let’s say them out loud.”
A recurring theme for the evening was the search for one’s true self up against constant pressures to look, speak, and act a certain way. Cloud, the Washington Mystics guard who opted out of the 2020 WNBA season to focus on organizing for social justice, had her own inspiring story to tell.
“You go through life as a Black woman, it is really hard to try to stay true to your authentic self and embrace who you are and love who you are. That didn’t come easy,” she said, pointing to the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor last year as turning points in her journey of self-discovery.
“I want to be on the front lines, I want to be on the street, I want to be in my community. I want to bring my folding chair to the tables that too far often women, especially Black women, are kept out of,” Cloud said.
Bell, whose Black Girl Ventures is focused on helping Black and Brown woman-identifying founders realize economic advancement by providing access to capital, took it a step further. On the subject of breaking down obstacles that often stand between Black women and career success, she went ahead and dropped the mic:
“Lack of investment in women is not a women’s issue.”
The comment, which resoundingly captured the energy of the nearly two-hour Clubhouse chat, was received with universal acclaim by the panel. As Gold-Onwude concurred, she made it clear that the days of Black women in sports, media, and business settling for less is over.
“I felt like we were discouraged to do everything. You were supposed to hide who you were, hide your Blackness, try to fit in, speak a certain way, don’t post on social,” she said of her early days as a television personality.
“And thank goodness that the tides have changed and we’re seeing natural hairstyles, braids, twists on-air, [and] the comfort to tell Black stories.”
So, for those unsure about how to take the first step, where does this effort begin?
“For far too long, it’s been the responsibility of the oppressed people to un-oppress ourselves,” Bell said, explaining the message of empowerment, ownership, and pride behind Black Girl Ventures that pushes back against this harmful dynamic. “This is women working with women across all sectors, all industries. And we’re not gonna take it anymore.”
Added Purce: “Start at home. Start with your friends. Start with your colleagues. I hope to inspire a new generation to inspire [another] generation to do what we’re doing for them, so it never ends. It’s to be continued endlessly. There really is no ceiling.”