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3 Inspiring Black Women Who Excel in Male-Dominated Industries

Hey Lovelies,

It’s no secret that Black women have to overcome barriers in the labor force. According to the US Department of Labor, these challenges include the pay gap, with Black women earning 63 cents for every dollar earned by white men, as well as suffering an unemployment rate of 10.9% in recent years. As a result, it sometimes can be challenging to internalize accomplishments and skills when you do succeed. Despite what it seems, most of the time, these mental cut-offs stem from Imposter Syndrome — a negative thinking cycle that you can break. On top of reframing your mindset, you can look for inspiration to help you stay more consistent with your goals. To get you started, here are three inspirational Black women who excelled despite being in male-dominated industries:



Despite her struggles with poverty, segregation, and severe economic downturns, Dr. Gladys West persevered to become a mathematician. After taking a temporary teaching position, she was hired by the US Navy in Virginia, where she was the second Black woman to be hired to work as a programmer out of only four Black employees. Over time, West climbed the ranks and became part of the managerial work involving the Seasat, the first satellite that could monitor oceans. This led her to program an IBM 7030 Stretch computer to provide calculations for an accurate geodetic Earth model, which became the groundwork for the Global Positioning System (GPS) we use today. However, most of her contributions went unknown until she sent a short autobiography to a sorority function, where she has since been recognized as one of the “hidden figures” backing the development of the GPS. In an interview, West notes how this recognition has made her proud as a Black woman, further proving the level of skill and work that African-American women are capable of reaching.



Card games require a strategic mind to win, a trait often associated with men. This line of thinking is outdated — many female poker players, including Courtney Kennedy, have already broken this stereotype. With humble beginnings as a recreational player and work as a dealer in Detroit, Kennedy worked her way to success in the World Series of Poker, the world’s biggest and most famous live poker festival. The annual WSOP schedule usually includes more than 80 tournaments, each awarding a coveted WSOP bracelet to the winner. In 2016, Kennedy was able to secure the top prize of the WSOP $1000 no-limit Hold'em ladies event, defeating more than 819 competitors to receive the top prize of $149,108. Later on, Kennedy admitted in an interview that this accomplishment improved her mindset on working toward success.



Chess is famous for being a male-dominated competitive game, with only 15% of players being female. Despite this challenge, Rochelle Ballantyne went all-in on the game as the first Black US woman chess master. Through the Chess-in-the-Schools (CIS) program, she learned the basics of chess and won her way to receiving coaching and mentoring from grandmaster instructors. Ballantyne’s rise to fame was famously featured in the 2012 documentary Brooklyn Castle, where she was part of the country's top-winning junior high school chess team. Currently, she’s attending law school at New York University while holding three jobs and interning for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. She shares in a Reuters feature that all of her work is in honor of her grandmother. Ballantyne also hopes to inspire young Black girls who play chess.

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