By Patty Williams-Downs
February 23, 2022
Patty Williams-Downs is an entrepreneur, executive leader, coach, consultant, and Executive Director for OneGoal – Houston. She serves on the Board of Advisors for SheSpace, whose mission is to create clear pathways for women to accomplish professional and personal goals surrounded by the the convenience of a female-fueled space.
“If you’ve come to help me, you’re wasting your time. But if you’ve come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” These are Lilla Watson’s famous words from the 1985 United Nations Women’s Conference in Nairobi. Lilla was an Aboriginal Elder and activist. She used these words to challenge people to recognize that working to end oppression is not charity work. It’s justice work.
For me, these words call back to our women’s suffrage movement in the U.S., when white women fought a bitter fight for the right to vote only to exclude Black women in the process. Susan B. Anthony even said, “I will cut off this right arm of mine before I will ever work or demand the ballot for the Negro and not the woman.” They couldn’t see that their liberation was bound up with the liberation of the Black woman.
Houston is home to a unique enterprise dedicated to progress and prosperity for ALL women. The founders at SheSpace understand that our freedom is bound up together. The team, led by Stephanie Tsuru, isn’t here just to help; they’re here to lead, integrate, and provide space for women to take up space. Stephanie has curated spaces of inclusion to share ideas, knowledge, and resources — all in support of women ready to take ownership of their lives and futures.
At OneGoal-Houston, we share these same values. We have dedicated ourselves to closing the degree divide so that a student’s pathway to a degree is paved by her talent and ambition, not blocked because of her gender, race, or zip code. As Black History Month comes to a close and as Women’s History Month approaches, I am pleased to announce that on April 7, at our Impacting Futures Graduation Gala, OneGoal – Houston will be honoring SheSpace Founding Mother, Stephanie Tsuru. Like SheSpace, OneGoal – Houston is building bridges to help close those divides, and I could not be more grateful for their partnership, their energy, and their passion for the young people we serve.
Today, an average of only 2% of venture capital funding goes to women(1), and a mere 1.2% goes to Black founders(2), making it difficult for them to launch and sustain their business and grow their wealth. That’s why having partners like SheSpace in the Houston region are so important. When we create opportunities for young female Black business professionals to gather, discuss ideas, and build visibility for their companies, the possibilities are endless.
(1) Jordan Rubio & Priyamvada Mathur (2022) An exceptional year for female founders still means a sliver of VC funding https://pitchbook.com/news/articles/female-founders-dashboard-2021-vc-funding-wrap-up
(2) Sophia Kunthara (2022) Startup Founders From HBCUs Overcome Funding Challenges With Grit, Determination https://news.crunchbase.com/news/hbcu-funding-black-founders-diversity-investment/