Los Angeles sunshine illuminated the City View Terrace at STAPLES Center as the Sparks honored six outstanding women during its fifth annual #WeAreWomen Day brunch on August 25.
Sparks President and COO Danita Johnson began the #WeAreWomen campaign in 2015 to recognize women and girls in the Los Angeles community who advance the franchise’s goal of empowering women. The campaign features a themed Sparks game, the #WeAreWomen brunch, and the Woman of the Year Award, the campaign’s signature event.
Finalists for the award are selected from online nominations, with one finalist advancing from each nomination category. 2019 nomination categories included Health & Wellness, Financial Literacy, Community, Entrepreneurship, Service, and Media & Entertainment.
Before announcing the finalists at the #WeAreWomen brunch, Sparks Vice President of Corporate Partnerships Cay Young moderated a keynote panel focused on women’s professional and personal development. Michelle Edgar (Founder of The XX Project, Vice President of Brand Marketing at Epic Records), Eryn McVerry (Vice President of Marketing and Content at Vision Venture Partners), Kristin Connelly (Senior Director of Marketing at Overwatch League), Danita Johnson (President and COO of the Los Angeles Sparks), Naz Aletaha (Head of Global Esports Partnerships and Business Development at Riot Games), and Allison Galer (WNBA Agent, Founder of Disrupt the Game Sports Agency) headlined this year’s panel.
“If women don’t help women, then who’s going to help us? At the end of the day, it’s on us to empower each other and lift each other up…a lot of women look at the other woman in the room, especially in sports or entertainment, as more of competition instead of ‘how can we help each other?’ But ultimately it all falls on us to lift each other up.” -Allison Galer, WNBA Agent, Founder of Disrupt the Game Sports Agency
“I think the takeaway from this panel is something that can make [women] better in their everyday [lives],” Johnson said. “With this great group of women that we have on this panel – we’re all accomplished, we’ve all done different things in our careers – so just from a professional and personal standpoint, if women can walk away with something extra that they didn’t have when they came in, I think we’re off to a great start.”
The panelists spoke on myriad topics ranging from mentorship to balancing work and home life to diversity and inclusion. Despite the different issues discussed, a common thread of female empowerment ran through each response, with a particular emphasis on how women can do a better job of supporting each other.
“If women don’t help women, then who’s going to help us?” Galer said. “At the end of the day, it’s on us to empower each other and lift each other up. [It’s tough because] a lot of women look at the other woman in the room, especially in sports or entertainment, as more of competition instead of ‘how can we help each other?’ But ultimately it all falls on us to lift each other up.”
Young concluded the panel by announcing the finalists for the 2019 Woman of the Year Award, with the winner, LaWanda Hawkins, announced at halftime of the Sparks’ matchup with the Connecticut Sun. Hawkins is the founder of Justice for Murdered Children, a non-profit dedicated to advocating for families of homicide victims, offering counseling and support services, and educating the community on ways to prevent violence. Other 2019 finalists included Nora Gonzales (Director of Principals, LAUSD), Melanie Perry (CEO of Zeallionaire Enterprises), Danielle Garcia (Partner at Ballers Philanthropy), Ann Duson (Founder and CEO of Women Veterans Unity Group), and panelist Michelle Edgar.