Black Female success stories
We are Still Standing…and Firmly on the Agenda
Though a year of global shakings and uncertainties, it has also been one of great awakenings for Black female leaders across the world.
The historic fault lines of discrimination and inequalities have also opened up fraught but fertile space for old and new Black female leaders to emerge. From the classroom to the boardroom, Black women are rising up and taking their place as creators, not mere consumers; as influencers and thought-shapers, not oppressed conformists.
Amidst global turmoil in 2020, Baroness Valerie Amos managed to deliver yet another first, having being appointed as Master of University College, Oxford from August 2020. The Baroness will be both the first female Master of University College, Oxford, and the first black head of any Oxford college.
Building on a distinguished career in public service and most recently Ofcom, in February 2020, Dame Sharon White was appointed the sixth Chairman of the John Lewis Partnership. As the first woman and Black person to be at the helm of the retail giant, her appointment literally prompted a re-write of the organisation’s constitution.
The seismic shift in Black women showing up in the market place is particularly visible in the US where women of colour are starting businesses at an accelerated rate. Women of colour represent 39% of the total female population in the U.S. but account for 89% of the net new women-owned businesses per day (1,625) over the past year (Business Wire, 2019). More African American women are also reaping the rewards of side entrepreneurship (or side-hustle) as they create alternative sources of employment outside traditional routes.
On the political scene, Kamala Harris’ ground breaking appointment as Vice-President Elect has been the subject of many articles and discussions but there were other Black female warriors that emerged at the same time, notably, Stacey Abrams. President-Elect Joe Biden, became the first Democrat candidate to win the state of Georgia in 28 years, thanks to Stacy Abrams’ work on the frontline of campaigning against voter suppression and galvanising Black voters. In 2018, Abrams narrowly lost the gubernatorial race in Georgia but “instead of fading into the background, she climbed into the trenches” (CNN, 2020).
Over 5,000 miles away, a band of female warriors rose up in the Giant of Africa and protested against rampant police brutality in Nigeria. Aisha Yesufu and other women formed a courageous coalition, the #ENDSARS movement, that brought a nation of over 200million people to a standstill and attracted international attention.
Black women continue to re-write historical narratives. Earlier in June 2020, Candace Carty-Williams became the first Black author to win ‘book of the year’ at the British Book Awards. Since the award’s inception in 1994, Candace is the first Black woman to win this prestigious award, with her critically acclaimed debut novel ‘Queenie’.
We end 2020 with yet another influential Black female leader on the cusp on an epic victory – Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former World Bank Managing Director and Nigeria’s former Finance Minister, is on the verge of being confirmed head of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Slowly but surely, the terrain is shifting, age old narratives of inertia and victimisation are being re-written by Black women leading the charge across the world. When we look out on the global landscape – from arts to tech – it’s hard to miss the deep footprints of Black female leaders now visible in their rightful place, right next to their male counterparts.