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Progress in every sector and industry is upon us!
Jennifer King has just been promoted to an offensive assistant coach position on the Washington Football Team, solidifying her as the first Black woman to be a full-time coach in the NFL. A little bit of Black Girl Magic for you. Black women finally have the world’s attention, now it’s time for us to show them what we can do. We are redefining what it looks like to be in a position of power, we are not only defining what success looks like, we are redefining an expectation of what a coach looks like.
With her extensive coaching experience in football, King is more than qualified and ready to take on this role. Her hard work and dedication to the sport not only set her up for the winner’s effect but sets the rest of the country up as well. “The winner’s effect shows that the smaller fights and battles that you win, the more it sets you up to win. So, when you see someone like Jennifer King who gets this position and breaks a barrier, it is a win for anyone who might have felt that dream or another dream was even possible in their mind,” said Talia Fox, a diversity and inclusion strategist, and CEO of KUSI Global Inc., a leadership development firm that advises leaders on standards for diversity, inclusion, and equity within the work environment.
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As a nation, we need to see what is possible. Black women are showing up in 2021 and they are a force to be reckoned with. On the heels of the inauguration of the first Black female Vice President, Kamala Harris, we are now witnessing the first Black female NFL coach. We are creating a new norm. We are setting the world up for the next success and the next barrier to be obliterated. The many battles King had to fight to get to where she is now has prepared her to transition into this new title.
Her success is a momentous win for women and people of color everywhere. Diversity and representation should be seen in every industry—especially one as large as the NFL. In a male-dominated industry such as this, this win has been a long time coming.
This milestone in our history acts as a wake-up call to our nation like, “Hello, why did it take us this long?” Our society has come a long way, but there is still a long way to go. “The impact is going to be big but I think the league is catching up. They’re behind, as is our country. I think that the culture has moved faster than the league. The league needs to play catch-up, in other words, what are their practices, what are their systems, and how are they hiring. I would even challenge the league to say why is this just happening now,” said Fox.
As a nation, we are finally realizing the value and perspective Black women contribute to this country. Our culture is beginning to shift, opening doors for diverse applicants who are more than qualified for these positions but often are overlooked or left out of the conversation entirely. “Well, I think what we're seeing is that systemic racism is baked into all of our cultural practices. And when I say baked, I mean it's just in it purposely, has been in it for many, many years, and what we're seeing is—which is a good thing—is we’re kind of uprooting these practices and doing these symbolic gestures, if you will, that begin to move the entire country and entire culture in a new direction,” said Fox.
In the current state of our country, people are speaking out against injustice everywhere. This fight for equity is creating a domino effect, spilling over into government, businesses, and now sports. “Organizations are going to be held accountable. I think there's a huge shift in our country on the heels of many, many events one of them being the events of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and people are not going to stand for the lack of diversity, they're not going to accept the excuses,” continued Fox. The world has slowly begun to open our eyes to the inequality and open their minds to plans of inclusion.
As the first person who looks like her to step into this position, King has big shoes to fill. “The challenge I have seen with women or with people who are breaking barriers is it may be difficult to still stay humble, and be open to learn and not have to feel that we constantly have to defend our position and defend our honor. That is going to be a big struggle for many people especially if you feel that you're in a situation in which you have to prove yourself. I would say not constantly feeling like you have to fight the battle or defend yourself, just be committed to what you need to do and keep your eye on the ball as this is the most important thing for the transition,” argues Fox. King is mentally and physically prepared for what’s to come and can rise to the challenge. The players and the fans can reap the benefits of the new perspective and different energy that Black women can contribute to this sport.
Seeing powerful women such as Jennifer King inspires a nation. “There are newness and a freshness to it so I think that representation is not only going to sweep across but plant seeds of hope and possibility in young people. But I think it's also going to be some of the best and most strategic moves of our time. When you diversify, you will win. You can bet on it.” We are witnessing an era of progress unfold as we win fight after fight for equality. Trailblazers like Jennifer King give us faith that change is on the horizon.
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