Some of Pittsburgh’s Black female leaders— Making moves in politics and business

by Diane I. Daniels, For New Pittsburgh Courier

Contrary to what the 2019 City of Pittsburgh’s Inequality Across Gender and Race study suggests, there are African American women in the City of Pittsburgh and surrounding communities doing well and making a difference in people’s lives.

Marita Garrett, Marimba Milliones, Carol A. Neyland and Tammy Thompson are just a few. “I’ve known these ladies in different capacities for many years and they are all dynamite,” Neyland said during the Feb. 14 Chatham University’s Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship Women Business Leadership Breakfast Series.

In celebration of Black History Month, the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship and the Women’s Institute at Chatham University hosted a panel of speakers representing “Black Women in Leadership and Community Development.” Garrett is the mayor of Wilkinsburg and president of Civically Inc. Milliones is president and CEO of the Hill Community Development Corporation. Neyland is senior vice president, community banking at Dollar Bank. Thompson is owner and operator of T3 Consulting Group and the executive director of Circles of Greater Pittsburgh. The four women discussed their personal and professional roles in community development, their leadership styles and advancing their careers as women of color.

A PROUD MOMENT—Carol Neyland, right, tells panelists Marimba Milliones, left, and Tammy Thompson, center, that she’s proud of their work.

Mayor Garrett served as moderator for the three-person panel.

“I feel positive about the attempts to talk about equity and to make legislative and policy changes that are trying to get at the heart of the matter. But equity has to be thought of as something other than a trend,” Milliones said. She also indicated that the powers-at-be have to consider developing the lifestyle amenities and infrastructure to support and retain people of color. “When you know you need, I think at least 80,000 workers over the next maybe eight years, where are they going to come from? If we can’t retain diverse talent and America is becoming a more diverse country, what does that mean for the future of Pittsburgh? We have to get this thing right and we have to do it quick.”

Thompson said she’s excited about the opportunity and increase in African American entrepreneurship in Pittsburgh. “That makes me extremely happy to see that people are willing to take the risk to do it because they feel safe enough to take the risk at this very moment. That’s important to me, that’s the trend I want to see increase, particularly Black women taking the leap into entrepreneurship.”

Focusing more on a corporate and historical perspective, Neyland, employed by a 165-year-old financial institution, reflected on how Dollar Bank, in 1855, six years before the Civil War, welcomed Blacks to open accounts. Dollar Bank also gave women their property rights 60 years before they had voting rights. “That makes me happy and optimistic,” she said. “Our founders at the Fourth Avenue office made sure everyone was welcome and that makes me feel hopeful about the future. If good men and women could get it right 165 years ago, then we can get it right today.”

Milliones, the Hill District native and youngest daughter of Margaret and Jake Milliones, two civically engaged, scholastic Pittsburgh icons, considers herself an entrepreneur-turned non-profit executive.

Advocating for and utilizing intentional planning and development practices that honor people, places, culture and the market, she says her community development work is a career; not just a job.

With a passion for people, and strong advocate for financial literacy, Neyland‘s philosophy is that you never know what you can do until you try. Toting a master’s degree in Latin, she remembers many times being told what she couldn’t do. “I put my blinders on and strive to do my best,” she said.

Thompson began her business, T3 Consulting, out of necessity after she was fired. She is also the executive director of Circles Greater Pittsburgh. T3 Consulting delivers services that focus on addressing the stigma and negative stereotypes associated with people living in poverty and Circles utilizes a nationally known model connecting people across socioeconomic lines to move people and families out of poverty. The Pittsburgh design is based in East Liberty.

Headed by Anne Flynn Schlicht, The Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship creates economic opportunities for women through entrepreneurial education and training, mentoring and networking. Funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration, the CWE provides free business counseling for aspiring and existing business owners by appointment and face-to-face, online, and phone counseling is available. Technical assistance is offered by appointment in accounting, marketing and digital marketing, legal, business planning, HR and diversity certifications. The Center is the 2018 SBA Women Business Center of the Year.

(ABOUT THE TOP PHOTO: SHARING KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCES to a standing-room-only audience were, from left: Wilkinsburg Mayor Marita Garrett, Hill CDC President and CEO Marimba Milliones, T3 Consulting Group and Circles of Greater Pittsburgh Executive Director Tammy Thompson, and Dollar Bank Senior Vice President, Community Banking, Carol Neyland. – Photos by Diane I. Daniels)

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