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Women History Month Profile: Catherine L. Hughes


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Created on March 14, 2014
 

Thanks to the U.S. civil rights movement and the push for women’s equality, African-American women now have opportunities that an earlier generation could only dream about. Today African-American women crew NASA space missions, run Fortune 500 companies and win Pulitzer Prizes for successful Broadway plays. Here's a profile of one African-American women who has made her mark and inspire women everywhere.

Catherine L. HughesCatherine L. Hughes

Financial difficulties forced Catherine L. Hughes to give up her home and live with her young son in the studio of the first radio station she bought in Washington. But today Radio One, the company she founded in 1979, is a multibillion-dollar enterprise that includes radio stations in every major market in the United States. Radio One reaches an estimated 14 million listeners each week. When Radio One became a publicly traded company on the NASDAQ stock exchange in 1999, it was the first ever owned by an African-American woman. In January 2004, Radio One launched TV One, a national cable and satellite television network featuring programming for African-American adults. In an interview with Hello Beautiful, a website aimed at African-American women, Hughes decried the negative portrayals of African-American women so often found in mainstream media. “We’re interested in the positive side of being African American,” Hughes said of Radio One and TV One programming.

Hughes was appointed chairwoman of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Council on Underserved Communities. The council will advise U.S. government policymakers on ways to assist minority entrepreneurs. The Small Business Administration directs financial assistance programs for small businesses that would otherwise have difficulties obtaining loans. It’s something Hughes understands well. When Hughes attempted to purchase her first radio station more than 30 years ago, 32 different bankers, all men, turned down her loan requests. She was finally able to get the seed money she needed from a sympathetic Hispanic woman banker. Much later, as a successful businesswoman, Hughes told the Houston Chronicle that instead of criticizing the “old-boy network” that so often excludes them, women should create their own business networks.

Hughes’ commitment to the African-American community and to African-American women, in particular, runs deep. Most of the employees in her business are African Americans, and many of the managers are African-American women.

This article is part of the eJournal USA issue “Making Their Mark: Black Women Leaders.”

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