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8 Powerful Black Women Thriving Against All Odds

Updated: Feb 5, 2021

Black women are often underrepresented in positions of power and authority in the mainstream media. While there are certainly notable exceptions, statistics still demonstrate that Black women are significantly less likely to hold power and influence than their White female counterparts.

When you begin to analyze exactly what makes a woman truly powerful, it's hard not to notice how diverse of a concept it is. Many things can define power in and of itself from one person to another; oftentimes, these reasons vary. Regardless of gender, power can be defined as producing an effect or outcome through influence or means to establish control over others.

The list of Black women who have marched their way to the top in various industries is growing by leaps and bounds. It isn’t easy to keep track of every trailblazer, which is why we’re here to help. Here are 8 powerful Black women who are thriving and making an impact in the world against all odds.

1. Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris became the first Black and Asian American to hold the title of Vice President-elect. Harris is the daughter of an Indian mother and Jamaican father and is the second Black woman and first South Asian American senator.

"There will be a resistance to your ambition, there will be people who say to you, 'You are out of your lane,'" Harris said during the 2020 Black Girls Lead conference. "They are burdened by only having the capacity to see what has always been instead of what can be. But don't you let that burden you."

2. Rashida Jones

Jones is the First Black Woman to helm a network news division after being named president of MSNBC News. Given that this is the first time a Black woman has ever been in charge of a major television network, it’s worth noting the value that Jones will bring to MSNBC isn’t just her unique perspective and her distinguished track record as a television executive.

3. Stacey Abrams

Abrams organization, the Fair Fight Action, has received much of the credit for influencing Georgia’s decisions on both Election Day 2020 and the Senate special election throughout her career. Abrams has been a vocal advocate for voting rights. She has fought back against the efforts to make it more difficult to vote in Georgia, and with all of her hard work, helped to flip Georgia into a blue state. Her work in voter suppression earned her a Nobel Peace Prize nomination.

“Do not edit your desires.”

4. Janice Bryant Howroyd

In a country that still struggles with racial equality, Janice Bryant Howroyd breaks boundaries by being the first African American woman to lead a $1 billion company. The 65-year-old entrepreneur is also the founder and CEO of Act 1 Group, Inc., a workforce and consultancy agency based out of Las Vegas with 17,000 clients in 19 countries.

“Never compromise who you are personally to become who you wish to be professionally.”

5. Jessica O. Matthews

Matthews is the founder and CEO of Uncharted Power (formerly Uncharted Play), which creates toys that generate electricity. What Matthews has done is jaw-dropping.

"The average amount a black woman will raise over the course of her life is $34,000," Matthews said. "We raised $7 million -- the average series A that people raise. And by people, I mean white, straight males. Why is this exciting? We're in the game now. I'm excited that I'm playing on an equal level as the people that look opposite of me in Silicon Valley."

"Embrace discomfort. Innovation lies between a rock and a hard place."

6. Cathy Hughes

Founder and Chairperson Urban One, Inc.

Hughes, the media mogul, is the first African-American woman to lead a publicly traded media company and one of the wealthiest self-made Black women in America. Urban One, Inc. isn’t just a radio station. It’s 56 stations, plus all of its subsidiaries, including TV One, a cable television network, and publishing websites, such as The Daily Grind and Hello Beautiful.

“You should be learning everything you can about your craft. And read everything you can get your hands on about individuals who are accomplished. I probably know as much about Oprah as her staff because I read every single solitary thing. If I see her name, I read it.”

7. Roz Brewer

She is the second Black woman ever to run a Fortune 500 company. Being the first and thus far only Black female to run a Fortune 500 company is quite the milestone. Brewer devoted her time to making the coffee behemoth practices more racially sensitive and ecologically sustainable. She was also Starbucks’ first Black COO and the first Black woman to sit on Amazon’s board. The former Starbucks executive was recently named CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc.

“You can and should set your own limits and clearly articulate them. This takes courage, but it is also liberating and empowering, and often earns you new respect.”

8. Cynthia “Cynt” Marshall

At 61, Cynthia is the first Black woman CEO in the NBA. Marshall spent nearly four decades climbing the corporate ladder at AT&T. And today, she is the first Black female CEO in the NBA, having taken the helm at the Dallas Mavericks in 2018 to clean up the league’s toxic work culture.

“I don’t care where you are, what your zip code is, have big dreams.”

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