Meet Lisa Borders, the CEO of Time's Up

BAW Lisa Borders
Photo: InStyle

This article was originally published Oct. 4, 2018.

As president of The Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA), Lisa Borders advocates for women in sports, pushing for more inclusivity in the industry and pay equality across gender lines. It should come as no surprise then, that she'd be named President and CEO of the Time's Up organization, which launched almost one year ago. In her new role at Time's Up, Borders will continue to ensure advancement for women across industries by supporting equal opportunities and respect in the workplace.

While filming Borders for a Badass Women video feature, released last month, Borders told InStyle that people often underestimate her based on her gender and race – but she's never let it stop her.

"I'm a girl. I'm a person of color. And nine times out of 10, I have been underestimated anytime I've started a new job or a new role or had a new opportunity," Borders says. "People have their own perceptions of who you are before you walk through the door. Some of it's based on how you look or how you behave or how they perceive that you behave. But at the end of the day, the way to overcome that is to deliver results."

Borders has the support of other members of Time's Up, including screenwriter and producer Shonda Rhimes.

"The pursuit of safe, dignified and equal treatment in the workplace as a solution to the abuse of power is a mission that can be fulfilled," Rhimes said in the press release. "With Lisa's skills and leadership, Time's Up is now in the best position to achieve what we all started – to create a more positive future for workplace culture and a more powerful network for working women of all kinds."

As part of her new role, Borders plans to call on everyone involved with Time's Up movement to step up to the plate and help her push initiatives forward.

"Time's Up is both a natural extension and a bold advancement of the work I have been doing for the last four decades," she said. "To disrupt and reinvent the ingrained status quo, we will need all hands-on deck to create and sustain enduring change. I'm thrilled to lead Time's Up and I am convinced that together, we will shift the paradigm of workplace culture."

Read on to learn more about Time's Up's new President and CEO.

1. She didn't get to root for one single team in the WNBA: In her time at the WNBA, Borders wasn't allowed to root for a single team as president. Instead, she made the time to get to know her players, across the board, as individual, talented women. "Our players are central to everything that we do," she tells InStyle. "These are elite athletes, but I am really thrilled to know who they are not just on the court but off the court. They are interesting women with passions around all types of things that are going on in their community."

2. She wasn't an athlete: People often think Borders must have been an athleteto run the WNBA, but it's not true. "I was a cheerleader, so I always appreciated the sport and how much fun it was, but I am not athletically inclined," she tells InStyle. Instead, she focused on things behind the scenes, helping her players reach their full potential by giving them all the support they need from within the organization. "My gift is in business. So, I am able to enable these athletes and support this business through the value that I bring as a business executive."

BAW Lisa Borders 

3. She originally wanted to study medicine at Duke University: Duke is where this powerhouse alumnus (and school trustee) solidified her love for basketball. "I learned about basketball at Duke as that program was just really taking off and I really learned to appreciate not only the rules but the talent and the athleticism that's required to play basketball," Borders says.

But, she originally went to the school to study medicine. "My father was a physician; his sister was a physician. And the notion was that you could be your own boss and that you were an entrepreneur if you were a clinician serving the community but in control your own destiny [appealed to me]," Borders says. So, what changed her mind? Organic Chemistry. "Oh my God that is some really hard stuff. That changed my mind really quickly."

4. She speaks fluent French: At Duke, she transferred from medicine to become a French major. And she still speaks the language fluently to this day.

5. She played a large part in bringing the WNBA to Atlanta, Georgia (her home city): Borders worked with former WNBA president Donna Orender to help bring a WNBA team to her home city, but it wasn't easy. "It was, frankly, terrifying," she says. "When you're trying to start something from scratch and you have a white sheet of paper, that is a blessing and a burden. You are painting the picture from nothing. So, it's your opportunity to paint whatever you like." But eventually, Borders and a group of like-minded women pulled it off. "We painted an opportunity for women who were in college who were athletically inclined and incredibly talented to live out their full potential and reach their dreams."

6. She was involved in politics: Borders served as Vice Mayor of Atlanta and President of the Atlanta City Council. She even ran for mayor of Atlanta in 2009. And though she ultimately lost the race, she considers it a pivotal moment in her professional career that made space for her to assume her fated position at the WNBA.

7. She grew up in the segregated South in the '50s, '60s, and '70s: Borders grew up in Atlanta, the capital of the new, but segregated South. Borders refers to it as the "cradle of the Civil Rights Movement," in which her paternal grandfather played a part. His involvement in the movement had a profound effect on Borders as she grew up. "It really made me amp up my game from a very young age, recognizing that people for the most part are good, but there are ignorant people," Borders tells InStyle. "Growing up in the South left indelible fingerprints on my mind but more importantly, on my heart. I find myself always working for those who are disenfranchised or those who have not reached their full potential, recognizing that they too need that opportunity."

8. Borders was Vice President of Global Community Affairs at The Coca-Cola Company and Chair of The Coca-Cola Foundation: Border's maternal grandfather was a chauffeur ("not an Uber driver, a chauffeur") from 1929-1959 for the president of the Coca-Cola Company. Years later, Borders had the opportunity to be a senior officer and run the global foundation. "I realized that my company moved from the chauffer seat to the executive suite in two generations. That's a big deal," she says.

9. Her goals for the WNBA include the overall mission of Time's Up: "At the end of the day, we want to endure for centuries and be equally, if not more, successful than our male peers," Borders tells InStyle. "Hear that, men? We're coming for you. We're coming down that same track. Excuse me. We want to be just as successful. We want to have market share, mind share, and heart share of our fans across the globe."

Amen, Lisa.

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