As the first Black woman to be promoted to the position of Principal Dancer with the American Ballet Theatre, Misty Copeland is an inspiration for many young BIPOC women. She has continued to create opportunities for others as a trailblazer in her field, and as an activist, she is continuously advocating for wider accessibility to the arts for all people.

For over 125 years, YWCA has tirelessly worked to create welcoming communities based on racial and gender equity, where women and girls of all backgrounds have equal access to opportunity, and there is social justice for all people. We celebrate women who've paved the way for others, and our Inspire Luncheon speaker Misty Copeland does just that.

Photo of Misty Copeland with YWCA's "Rise, Thrive, and Reconnect" Luncheon logo

About Misty Copeland

Misty Copeland is a woman of many talents. Although Misty never had formal training until she was a teenager, by the age of 14 she was already winning national ballet competitions and getting her first solo role. Misty earned a full-ride scholarship to the San Francisco Ballet School in 1998, and she became the first Black woman to be promoted to the position of Principal Dancer with the American Ballet Theater in 2015. But Misty's work didn't stop there — in 2022, she launched the Misty Copeland Foundation, which brings greater diversity, equity, and inclusion to dance; particularly ballet.

"I recognize that I had a much bigger responsibility than I ever knew I had - not just to be a Black body on the stage, which in and of itself is a protest, but to use my voice beyond my body." - Keynote speaker Misty Copeland, Advocate, author, and Principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre

Misty's work makes the arts more accessible to people who normally have limited opportunities and resources to rely on. With her production company Life In Motion Productions, she focuses on the importance of representation, depicting the stories of artists in the past, present, and future so more people can understand the artist experience. Her art goes hand-in-hand with her activism, and her first independently produced project Flower helps raise awareness about the importance of intergenerational equity.

She is the New York Times bestselling author of several books, including Life In Motion, Ballerina Body, Black Ballerinas, The Wind At My Back, and picture books titled Bunheads and Firebird. In 2021, Misty received the Spingarn Medal, the NAACP’s highest honor.

Expanding Access to Opportunities

Barriers to resources, lack of mentors, lack of role models, and a lack of a supportive network can make it difficult for young BIPOC women to succeed and thrive across various industries and careers. For example, only 34% of the STEM workforce consists of women, and of these women, less than 10% are BIPOC.

To combat this, YWCA developed Femme2STEM to offer offer STEM career options and educational opportunities to BIPOC women and girls. This free program helps participants connect with STEM employers, mentors, and a supportive community which helps our program participants thrive, especially in environments where they don’t see themselves represented well.

Unequal access to opportunities means generations of women and girls are barred from entire fields of study, and those fields lose the diverse perspective and rich life experience those women and girls could offer. However, when BIPOC women see people like them succeeding, and when they themselves are giving the opportunity to forge their own path, we come one step closer to true equity.

Register for our September 14 Luncheon to hear more from Misty Copeland, and sign up for our newsletter to stay informed with YWCA’s race and social justice work.

Ana Rodriguez-Knutsen

Ana Rodriguez-Knutsen is the Content Specialist for YWCA's Marketing & Editorial team. From fiction writing to advocacy work, Ana works with an intersectional mindset to uplift and amplify the voices of underrepresented communities.


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