WNBA president says failure can place you on the path to success


Lisa Borders
Lisa Borders (Photo by Sophia Hantzes)

Women and girls are empowered in so many ways, but they must recognize and use their voices and power. Top women executives, including WNBA President Lisa Borders, stressed this on a panel held during the Minnesota Lynx’s first “We Are Women Night” August 28.

Borders, Land O’Lakes Group Executive VP and COO Beth Ford, Target Senior Vice President, Merchandising Transformation and Operations Christina Hennington, along with world renowned explorer Ann Bancroft and Star Tribune sports reporter Rachel Blount shared their success stories and setbacks to an audience of girls and women in the downtown Minneapolis arena.

Dre Brown, who runs her own “empowerment marketing” consulting firm, was a co-moderator of the panel that took place on the Lynx’s court prior to a scheduled contest. Borders and Brown talked to the MSR before and after the panel.

“I can speak as a woman of color,” noted Brown, who also conducted a self-esteem workshop for girls afterwards as part of the Dove Self-Esteem Project. Brown is a facilitator and workshop leader. “We all need to be reminded how powerful we are. We are constantly challenged by the notion that maybe we are not enough. We are here to remind [young women and girls] that we are enough.”

Brown pointed out that women and girls should “use their voices” to unabashedly speak their beauty. “The big goal is to remind women and girls of all ages that beauty can be a source of confidence,” explained Brown. “Beauty can be a source of confidence and not anxiety. It makes you feel good no matter what you’re doing.”

Borders was named president of America’s longest running pro women basketball league this past spring. She previously headed the Coca-Cola Foundation in Atlanta.

When asked about the importance of her presence in leadership, especially to the few Black girls in the audience, Borders responded, “For young [Black] women to see those of us on this journey [that] have achieved a little bit of success, [it] says to them that they can do likewise and achieve more. They will learn from us what we did right and what we did wrong. They don’t need to make our same mistakes, but to learn from them.”

“I am opportunistic,” admitted Borders to the audience. “If I want to do something, I do it.” She briefly recalled her experience when she unsuccessfully ran for Atlanta mayor, and pointed out that sometimes failure can be a growth opportunity.

“Failure is not fatal but feedback,” stated Borders. “If I had not lost the mayor’s race, I wouldn’t have been available when the Coca-Cola job became available or would not have met [NBA Commissioner] Adam Silver” who hired her to lead the WNBA. “I’m blessed to have the privilege to lead the WNBA.” She is the only female head of a major league sport.

“There are not enough women in the boardroom, leading organizations or in the corporate sector — not only in the nonprofit sector but also in the public sector,” stressed Borders, who has experience in public (a former city council member), private and nonprofit.

When asked why women seemingly don’t support each other, “We tend to criticize each other’s hair, hemline, husbands, clothes, [and] heels, but we shouldn’t,” said Borders. “I strongly want to help other women. As a woman and president of the W[NBA], it’s absolutely critical that I speak up on a regular basis about women supporting women. I think it’s important that women leading organizations speak up for our fellow women who are working every day, [as] the CEO of their household or as CEO of the WNBA. We are carrying the same load, [and] all of us [should] move forward as a community.”

Oftentimes women are “pleasers,” continued Borders. “When you’re young, you tend to please our parents, [then our] partner or our spouse, [and] our children. We don’t take care of ourselves as women. “It probably took me 20 years to learn [that].”

Borders, the only female head of a major league sport in America and the only Black currently in such position, proudly called herself “a fixer.”

“I like fixing broken things or taking things that are in a good place and taking them to a great place. I really like serving and helping others,” said Borders. “I saw the opportunity with the WNBA to bring the league to a whole nother level. There are 20 years of remarkable achievement,” she said of the leagues tenure. “But there are 20 [years] more,” she predicted.

When each panelist was asked to offer advice, Borders said preparation for whatever endeavor they pursue is important as well as creating “a pipeline…to make sure that all of the people that come behind you have the same opportunity that you had,” particularly women.

She said mentorship is even more important than sponsorship, she noted. This means “putting your name on the line” for the individual or individuals you are mentoring “to ensure that she or he has the opportunity to move forward.

“Bring your true self and true personality every day and not on selective days,” said Borders. “Live in the moment. Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a new day and a mystery.”


Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.