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Women's Forum Centers on Racism, and Struggles of Doing Business in a Man's World

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Cosmetics giant Bobbi Brown, a lawyer, a doctor and a restaurant owner talked about their experiences starting businesses, and racism in healthcare and business.

The Newark Museum of Art may be closed, but that didn’t stop it from hosting a virtual Women’s Leadership Forum during Women’s History Month.

The keynote speaker was Bobbi Brown, creator of one of the top cosmetics brands. She was asked about some of the obstacles she ran into as a woman building a business in an industry run by men.

“Probably the hardest thing that I faced was going into these board meetings that were really full of men in suits,” she said, “and I was not someone, even though I was all of a sudden in corporate America, I was not someone that was really comfortable being in this situation.”

Other women entrepreneurs said they had to overcome systemic racism and lack of access to capital.

One of them was Adenah Bayoh, a real estate developer who owns restaurants in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

She recounted what it was like when she tried to open her first IHOP.

“I was shocked with the level of discontent, lack of faith, no advocacy for women of color in the banking sector,” she said.

Bayoh said she was turned down for funding by seven banks in a row, and said until women have more access to capital they will never reach their full potential in business.

In the field of healthcare, the forum heard from Dr. Chris Pernell, Chief Strategic Integration and Health Equity Officer at University Hospital in Newark. She talked about what is behind the disproportionate loss of life to Covid among Black and brown people:.

“This current pandemic of coronavirus has erased any questions that may have existed about how systemic racism kills and robs life and life opportunity,” she said.

Pernell, who is Black, said she has lost her father and two cousins to Covid.