WNBA, ESPN hold Annual Inspiring Women Luncheon in NYC

Today, the WNBA and ESPN hosted the WNBA Inspiring Women Luncheon. Since 2006, the WNBA has honored women in a variety of professions doing amazing work to pave the way for girls and women to excel. Kimberly Bryant, Kayla Canario, and Andrea Jung are the 2017 inspiring women.

Before the event, The Summitt caught up with Imani Boyette and Layshia Clarendon about the importance of the Inspiring Women Luncheon for current players.

Inspiring the women of the WNBA

“Each and every one of the women who play in the WNBA are inspiring in some way, shape or form,” Atlanta Dream center Boyette told us before the event.

She added, “it only makes sense that the WNBA would take time to recognize other women that are doing things in different fields and arenas because that’s what we’re about – uplifting women and pushing women in general forward.”

Boyette’s Atlanta teammate Clarendon agreed, “I’m ready to be inspired!”  For the All-Star and current WNBPA vice president, the event is a way for players to network and prepare for their careers off the court.

“We’re always trying to find ways to plug players in, especially in the offseason … it’s always more than just the sport at the end of the day.”

The 2017 event did not lack inspiration for Boyette, Clarendon and the other players in attendance.

Cisco Inspiring The Future Award

Kimberly Bryant is the founder and executive director of Black Girls Code, a six-year-old non-profit organization that provides over 8,000 young and pre-teen girls of color in 14 cities (including Johannesburg, South Africa) opportunities to learn in-demand skills in technology and computer programming.

In six years, Black Girls Code has expanded its mission to educate one million girls by 2040 to code, and to blossom into the leaders this world needs.  She charged the audience to join her in the quest to empower the next generation:

“Our fundamental mission is to teach our girls self-confidence and self-efficacy. To show them how to embrace their power, especially in these challenging times when so many seek to diminish it … I also believe undoubtedly, that there is no force more formidable in this world, than a woman or girl who couples her inner belief in self with the innate power she inherits by right at birth … if we don’t teach our girls to write another single line of code, we feel that it is our duty and yours to show our girls each and every day that they are powerful beyond measure. And that they are enough in their own brilliant selves to be and become the generation of leaders that we have all been waiting for.”

Verizon Innovative Learning Award

Kayla Canario received the second award of the day for her work teaching outside the box. Canario and her colleagues developed a technology-driven approach to learning for 1,300 students at Bearden Middle School in Knoxville, TN.

Canario has made technology more accessible to her students, their families and the community through “always available” internet access.

She is breaking down the barriers to technology while using innovative approaches to learning in and out of the classroom. In her speech, she reminded the audience of the struggles educators and students undertake every day:

“No teacher, well I hope to say that no teacher goes into education thinking, ‘Ah! I’m gonna win an award, I’m gonna have dinner and sit next to Tamika [Catchings] …’ We believe that every single child should have somebody in their life who believes in them. Somebody who shows them that they matter. Somebody who shows them how to break down barriers. Somebody who lets them understand that they can do anything. They don’t have to listen to what society tells them about themselves.

WNBA Inspiration Award

Andrea Jung, the first CEO for Avon and the current president and CEO of Grameen America received the final award. Jung punctuated the event by underscoring the importance of women in business and finance.

“I’ve had an extraordinary opportunity to be involved with two organizations (Avon and Grameen America) who from the very inception and the mission have had something very special and unique in terms of laying the platform for women’s empowerment … [they] have driven my own personal passion and career.”

Jung had a fair share of tough times as a woman of color in corporate American. However, she overcame them thanks to four pieces of advice: 1) Follow your compass, not your clock; 2) Fail forward (via Steve Jobs); 3) Do good, not just well; 4) You may be the first, but you better not be the last

In closing, Jung stated:

“If you are the first, God bless you, but never be the last.  Look out for the people behind you. That is what WNBA is all about. That is why it is such an extraordinary privilege to be given this honor this afternoon and why – in a few minutes hopefully – you’ll take that thought and make anything I’ve done pale in comparison as you move forward.”

The Trailblazers

WNBA President Lisa Borders said during the event, “I believe it was Marian Wright Edelman who said you cannot be what you cannot see.”  The WNBA has been a mirror for so many girls and women in American and abroad.

President Borders was playfully asked to refrain from calling Sue Wicks, Teresa Weatherspoon, Katie Smith and Tamika Catchings “legends”. The term “trailblazers” was determined to be more apropos. Whatever the label, these inspiring women were some of the first, but not the last to play in the WNBA.

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