Google executive returns to Memphis to empower other women

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - She rubs shoulders with the likes of Beyoncé and President Barack Obama.

Thursday, Google executive Valeisha Butterfield Jones was the keynote speaker at the Women's Foundation for a Greater Memphis luncheon to inspire Mid-South women.

She said her rise to the top was no accident.

It was an ordinary week for Jones.

"Announcing and structuring a partnership with Beyoncé and Google.org to grant scholarships to students of historically black colleges and universities," Jones said.

Still she calls her return to Memphis an honor.

"So, my hubby played for the Memphis Grizzlies before we met," Jones said about her husband, Dahntay Jones.

Her dad is Congressman G. K. Butterfield, and her mom is North Carolina Representative Jean Farmer-Butterfield.

But her connections now are a far cry from growing up around extreme poverty in Wilson, North Carolina.

"Almost a dozen of my friends had been murdered at the time of my senior year in high school," Jones said.

Fast forward, and Jones was recently promoted to Global Head of Women and Black Community Engagement for Google.  In that role, she leads a worldwide effort to a worldwide effort to identify opportunities for women and African Americans at the company.

It didn't hurt she had 18 years of experience working in inclusion and diversity, with former employers President Barack Obama, Music Mogul Russell Simmons, and HBO.

Jones is often described as an "influencer" as the co-founder and CEO of the Women in Entertainment Empowerment Network (WEEN).  The mission of the non-profit is to support "the balanced, positive portrayal of women in entertainment and society."

"I always led with the work," Jones said. "Always led with action, substance, purpose and the influencer thing just became the byproduct of those things."

Her advice for young people is to be careful what you post online.

"I remember working in the Obama administration," Jones said. "I had to get top Secret Security clearance and they did the social media scrub of my entire life."

Jones was appointed to serve President Barack Obama in 2009 as the Deputy Director of Public Affairs for International Trade.  Then, in 2012, she served as the National Youth Vote Director for Obama's 2012 re-election campaign, when he had one of the highest youth voter turnouts in American history.

Also if you leave your community, she said, come back and help other women.

"We have the juice, I say that all the time," Jones said. "Our buying power is women, our entrepreneurship is women, our voting power is women, our educational wherewithal is women, but yet, we are seeing the widest gap and so it's so important we fight for equity as we look to the future."

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