Going into Women's History Month, Austin is blessed to be home to some of the nation's most enterprising, talented, hard-working and unique women who are making the city a better place. Whether it is spreading awareness through music, empowering women to make the first move or fiercely supporting the local community, these 11 women are Austin staples.
In no particular order, here are just some of the glass-ceiling-breaking women that walk the streets of Austin.
You may not have heard her name, but Julia Cheek is tackling an issue that has been plaguing women, and all Americans, for years: healthcare. Cheek was not sure her idea for at-home lab tests would succeed until she took her idea, Everlywell, onto Shark Tank, a TV show where entrepreneurs hope to gain celebrity investors, in 2017. With Shark Lori Greiner's help, Cheek has created an Austin-based company worth $1.3 billion, filling gaps in women's healthcare and changing the status quo of how people view medicine. The company offers more than 30 tests that ship right to your door, from fertility tests to STD tests to general health labs, and takes the confusion out of caring for yourself. When COVID-19 hit, Everlywell even made an at-home test.
Virginia Cumberbatch has been sparking conversations about diversity and inclusion worldwide for years, working with the University of Texas at Austin and the community to address equity across the board in education, housing and healthcare while co-founding Rosa Rebellion, a platform that supports creations by women of color to liberate and further social change. Cumberbatch was appointed to Mayor Steve Adler's Task Force on Institutional Racism and Systemic Bias in 2017, where the group worked to dismantle systemic inequities found in education, real estate and housing, health, finance and criminal justice throughout the city. Cumberbatch does her part by holding a tight grip on her East Austin home and making sure to get to know her neighbors, who have been living in the historically low-income neighborhood since before it became trendy and disrupting the world around her with the spoken word.
Delia Garza has been earning first after first in Austin: first Latina on Austin City Council, first Latina mayor pro tem and most recently first Latina to serve as Travis County attorney. The San Antonio native started an early career as a firefighter, so Garza is not easily intimidated, and after rising in the fire department ranks, she quit and pursued a law degree with her eyes set on public service. Garza is on a path to make Travis County more progressive as she works on uplifting underserved communities, creating affordable housing, ending racial disparities in the criminal justice system and breaking down barriers for Latina women.
By the time Ty Haney had graduated from the Parsons School of Design in 2011, she had created a five-piece activewear collection that, three years later, would become Outdoor Voices, a brand spreading like wildfire, and opened a flagship store in Austin. After a period of virality, Haney has dealt with her fair share of struggles. Coworker relationships and Haney's management style led to turmoil within the company and a more than 50% drop in valuation before she stepped down as CEO. Now, returning to the company as an active board member, Haney told Vogue she was happy to have made her mistakes early on in her career and now pledges to make her mark by hiring women and BIPOC to bring the brand back.
Whitney Wolfe Herd
Whitney Wolfe Herd built her legacy on a platform of empowering women. A Tinder cofounder, Wolfe Herd sued the company following alleged sexual harassment and verbal abuse from a superior and went on to create Bumble, a dating app where women make the first move. Now the app boasts more than 10 million users, a feature to find platonic friends and is Tinder's primary competitor. After making its market debut earlier this year, Wolfe Herd became the youngest self-made female billionaire in the world at just 31 years old. Bumble is also a company dedicated to the furthering of women: the Bumble Fund initiative invests in early-stage businesses run by women of color and underrepresented groups and the Moves Making Impact initiative helps users support charity causes on the app just by starting a conversation.
Jane Ko has amassed more than 90,000 Instagram followers for her blog, "A Taste of Koko," which takes you all around Austin from the comfort of your couch. Looking for a bougie bite in the community? Need a date idea? An outlet to vicariously live an influencer's lifestyle in your own city? Ko has you covered. Not only will Ko and her blog help you get connected to the city, she cares about the residents. When Winter Storm Uri took its toll on Austin, Ko was an integral part of getting hot meals in the hands of over 30,000 residents, pairing with restaurants around town to distribute free food. Ko is a self-proclaimed Austin lover and it shows.
Austin just wouldn't be Austin without innovator Liz Lambert. After purchasing a shifty motel on a whim, Lambert transformed South Congress from a degrading corridor to a staple landmark that people from all around the world come to see. The company she founded, Bunkhouse Group, has created memorable stays, drinks and atmospheres that are all around Austin, spreading into Texas and beyond. Lambert is the brains behind the famous Hotel San José on South Congress and was the recipient of the renowned "I love you so much'' public love letter on the side of Jo's Coffee. While she left Bunkhouse in 2019, she was most recently part of the team behind the Hotel Magdelena. If you can't imagine Austin without its iconic South Congress, you can't imagine an Austin without Liz Lambert.
Emily Ramshaw was on maternity leave during the #MeToo movement, the Women's March and the election of Donald Trump when she had the idea to start The 19th*, a nonprofit news organization founded to cover women in politics and issues women in underrepresented communities face. As the former editor-in-chief of the Texas Tribune, a Pulitzer Prize Board member and daughter of two journalists, Ramshaw founded the news organization with former Texas Tribune chief audience officer Amanda Zamora in 2020—naming it after the amendment that granted women the right to vote but adding an asterisk to recognize that the amendment excluded women of color. The nonpartisan organization has been reporting on gender, politics and policy since.
With a little more than $500, a spare bedroom and a vision, Kendra Scott walked door-to-door at local boutiques selling her jewelry when she started her namesake company in 2002. Fast forward almost 20 years and Scott's jewelry has dominated Texas, moving through the U.S., and now one of her famous "Elisa" necklaces sells every minute. Celebrities like Zendaya, Bella Hadid and Priyanka Chopra have been spotted adorning themselves with jewelry from the $1 billion company. Despite her immense success as a designer, professor of practice at the University of Texas and a guest Shark on Shark Tank, Scott keeps true to the company's Austin roots with local philanthropy. Since 2010, through the Kendra Cares Program and children's charities, the company has donated more than $30 million.
"Live life like you mean it," is Camille Styles motto. Styles has built a life for herself practicing radical self love and a brand on pushing others to pursue the best versions of themselves through her lifestyle brand from right here in Austin. The lifestyle blogger's team publishes guides to the city, promotes local businesses and manages a team of all women. The brand has taken her style to the small screen on HGTV, and to magazines like Vanity Fair, InStyle and The Oprah Magazine, truly bringing Austin to the forefront of design.
An Austin native and legacy musician, Jackie Venson just so happened to be in a great place to start a career in music, but being a Black woman trying to break into the scene made it that much more difficult for her. Venson, who was named the first Black "Best Guitarist" by the Austin Music Awards, told Austonia that the rise to fame was a hard-fought battle, dealing with venues who turned her away because they didn't want a "hip-hop" performer or because they "couldn't" have two Black soul performers on the same bill. Venson took her skills elsewhere and has made a name for herself as a musician touring the globe, performing for "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" and has since released three albums. She stays local though. When Winter Storm Uri hit, Venson notably retweeted resources to keep people informed. An advocate for Black musicians, Black Lives Matter and the Austin community, Venson even has her own holiday in Austin: May 21, Jackie Venson Day.
We share our city with some incredible women, so make sure to thank an Austin woman in your life this month.
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty on three charges—second- and third-degree murder as well as manslaughter—in the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man whose final moments were recorded by onlookers, sparking a global protest movement over police violence and racial injustice. He faces up to 40 years in prison.
Jurors deliberated for 10 hours over two days after an intense, three-week trial before reaching a verdict Tuesday afternoon, four days shy of the first anniversary of the Austin police killing of Mike Ramos, an unarmed, 42-year-old Black and Hispanic man whose name became a rallying cry—along with Floyd's—for Austin protestors, who marched en masse last summer, prompting some police reforms.
Austin Police Department Officer Christopher Taylor was charged with first-degree murder—an unprecedented charge in Travis County—in the case of Ramos' death on March 10. But Warren Burkley, community outreach director for the Austin Justice Coalition, was measured in his response to the Chauvin verdict. "It's highly visible accountability, so it will give people hope in the system," he told Austonia. "But it's just one innocent life taken. And even in this city, this happens regularly, and it doesn't make national news."
Local elected officials, community leaders and residents also responded to the news as APD officers spent their second day on tactical alert, prepared to respond to any protests or demonstrations, and City Council heard recommendations from a task force on how to reimagine public safety.
Chauvin guilty on three charges!!!!
— Chas Moore (@iGiveYouMoore) April 20, 2021
Full justice would mean that George Floyd was still with us. But today's guilty verdict represents a historic step toward justice and for his family. So important now for the Senate to approve the House George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.https://t.co/9zUOgZYg4L
— Lloyd Doggett (@RepLloydDoggett) April 20, 2021
For the first time we saw accountability in the courts for the murder of an innocent Black person.
Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd on camera.
This prosecution is historic. People are feeling temporary relief. This is more than Justice, this is #AccountabilityforGeorgeFloyd. https://t.co/HlBqW7sScx
— Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (@EddieforTexas) April 20, 2021
Many of us have been afraid for days that Derek Chauvin would be found not guilty, despite what the video so clearly showed in broad daylight. The guilty verdict today provides important accountability, but it does not provide real justice. (1/5) ⬇️
— Gregorio Casar (@GregCasar) April 20, 2021
George Floyd's murder led to national protests and calls for the enactment of policing and social justice reforms, including here in Austin. We have made a commitment here to holding police officers accountable and to implementing social justice and policing reforms.
— Mayor Adler | 😷wear a mask. (@MayorAdler) April 20, 2021
Derek Chauvin's conviction is only one step towards providing healing/justice for George Floyd's family + for our nation as a whole. It's up to us to honor Mr. Floyd + the many others lost to police violence by transforming public safety and making our communities safe for all. https://t.co/RVgQmcAf6I pic.twitter.com/hCHLibYjoy
— Council Member Alison Alter (@ALTERforATX) April 20, 2021
No person should be above the law. If you transgress the law you should be held accountability.
Derek Chauvin- GUILTY
— Emmanuel Acho (@EmmanuelAcho) April 20, 2021
George Floyd's murder heightened the long-overdue national conversation on systemic racism. Derek Chauvin has been found guilty, but this is just one step on a long road towards racial equity. We must enact significant systemic changes in order to achieve justice.
— Every Texan (@EveryTxn) April 20, 2021
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Californians love Texas, and Austin—with its liberal politics, relatively affordable housing and job opportunities—is particularly adored. In fact, the Lone Star State was the main recipient of departing Californians in 2019, according to the latest available U.S. Census Bureau data.
But other states, including Florida, are seeing increased interest. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez has made a name for himself on Twitter recruiting techies and hyping up his city, which has a lot in common with Austin—with the added benefit of a beach and sans the "Don't California my Texas" attitude.
California expats and industry experts say Austin remains the bigger draw for Californians, especially those in the tech sector, but warn that this advantage could shift to Miami if the city doesn't address the policy challenges that prompted the migration in the first place: housing affordability.
"If Austin doesn't accommodate this influx, I think all the talent will come to Miami," said Peter Yared, a tech entrepreneur who moved to Miami from San Francisco in September. "I think Miami's going to be the one that sucks it all up."
Both Texas and Florida promise business-friendly state tax policies, and their governors tout the relocations of companies such as Tesla and Oracle from California. But Darien Shanske, a law professor at the University of California Davis whose specialties include taxation, said this is a red herring because corporate taxes are based on where sales occur rather than headquarter locations.
This is not to say other state policies are irrelevant. "The area in which California regulatory policy has been, in my opinion, not a complete failure but problematic … is housing policy," Shanske said. Austin and Miami can offer "not cheap, just cheaper" housing than what is available in Silicon Valley. Plus, both cities are developing a critical mass of talent, which further draws Californians in. "If you're a software engineer, you want to live near other software engineers," he added.
But not every Californian is motivated to move. "San Francisco is a fantastic place to live if you can afford it," said Brandy Aven, a professor of entrepreneurship at Carnegie Mellon University's Tepper School of Business. As a result, it's more common for what she called the labor—engineers, programmers and even company founders—to relocate to cities such as Austin and Miami than the monied venture capitalists. Burgeoning tech cities may find that they need to develop homegrown investor networks to support local ventures in the absence of Californian transplants, but she believes this is doable.
Paul O'Brien, CEO of the Austin-based MediaTech Ventures and a startup veteran, moved to Austin from California in 2009, during the Great Recession. "I'm a firm believer that the world has been seeking an alternative to Silicon Valley for a long time," he said, pointing to Austin as the natural heir for myriad reasons.
Austin has regional appeal as the epicenter of three of the country's largest cities—Houston, Dallas and San Antonio—and their respective industry niches. Tech entrepreneurs could cater to the local consumer goods industry or Houston's oil and gas sector. Plus the city has cultural appeal, thanks to the Red River District and South by Southwest, which made it attractive to job seekers. "The whole reason everyone moved to Silicon Valley is opportunity," O'Brien said. "The whole reason people are now looking beyond Silicon Valley to somewhere else is opportunity."
It's less clear what Miami's key industries are, O'Brien said, but the city offers other selling points, including the mayor's buy-in and "a tremendous depth of wealth" to support a technology and startup ecosystem.
Although Yared didn't consider moving to Austin, he is aware of its appeal to engineers, especially now that their hero, Elon Musk, has moved there, shunning California. "Austin has a lock on tech," he said, but Miami draws a different crowd, including financiers from New York. This parallel migration, coupled with the city's more outwardly pro-growth building policies, gives him hope that Miami could supplant Austin in the coming years. "In the end, communities get to choose what they want," he said.
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In the days after Austin FC's inaugural match against LAFC on Saturday, Head Coach Josh Wolff says he's watched the game "a number of times, to say the least."
In the match, Wolff and over 500,000 other viewers looked on as Austin FC took to the pitch for the first time, held their own in the first half against LAFC and eventually fell 2-0 to a team that's sometimes regarded as the best in the league.
Austin FC had the largest television audience of any soccer match in the U.S. over the weekend, surpassing even the USWNT. In a showcase of the club's dedicated fan base, dozens of Los Verdes fans were spotted in green and black around the stadium—even with the match limited to 20% capacity.
Salute the support. 👏
It's only the beginning for @AustinFC. pic.twitter.com/TduorqYr2y
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) April 18, 2021
While the team lost their first-ever match, they didn't make it as easy as some expected.
Wolff said that the team did relatively well offensively, holding possession for 48% of the match and keeping a solid passing game. Once they got to the box, however, Wolff said they could use some work on creating scoring opportunities.
"We saw a lot of good connections, good spacing (and) good speed of passing," Wolff said. "I think we can obviously have more presence centrally to have more numbers in between lines. I just want us to create more chances. There's a lot on both sides of the ball that we still need to work on."
LA pulled some dramatics and slowly gained more possession throughout the half, but ATXFC's defense wasn't initially as shaky as it seemed in preseason. Later on, however, the team gave up some goals and seemed to struggle with endurance. Wolff said the backline did "okay" and that the club, including young center back Jhohan Romana, are still getting conditioned to play a full match.
"It's a lot of information for a young player," Wolff said. "I think as he fatigues then the decision making, as with most players, becomes a little bit more cloudy and then thus the execution becomes cloudy."
An honor to represent this city and y'all. We're just getting started. 💚🖤 pic.twitter.com/tmOqCfbXvs
— Austin FC (@AustinFC) April 18, 2021
Goalkeeper Brad Stuver had his work cut out for him, fending off 24 shot attempts, 11 of which were on goal.
Going into the match, Stuver and fellow goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell were neck-and-neck, with both labeled potential starters. However, it was Stuver, who many thought signed as a backup, that wore the goalkeeper's jersey on the field for the first time.
"I think both Andrew and Brad did relatively well in preseason, but we decided with Brad just based on how we felt preseason went," Wolff said. "I thought he performed pretty well to be honest. I think he and Andrew are similar in some aspects... it's being mindful of where their strengths and weaknesses are."
Five starters made their MLS debut in the match, including midfielder Daniel Pereira and forward Rodney Redes. While Wolff said Pereira held his own in the match, he saw a weak spot in the team's right side, making it difficult for Redes to make offensive plays.
"For Pereira, I think it was a solid day for a young kid coming in his first MLS game against that opponent," Wolff said. "Obviously there's there's a different physicality to MLS and I think those are things that all these guys are going to acclimatize to.
Now, the club looks to put the ball in the back of the net for the first time as they head to Colorado. Austin FC will face the Colorado Rapids at 8 p.m.on Saturday. The match will stream on the Austin FC app and be broadcast on the CW Austin. Austonia will keep an eye out for potential weekend watch parties.
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