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What's Holding the Fastest Growing Group of Entrepreneurs Back?

“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”
― Audre Lorde

A new balance is needed in the workplace. A balance where everyone has a voice; where everyone feels safe; where everyone has equal opportunities on a level playing field. Does our society have that now? No. Women, especially women of color, are constantly fighting to break through barriers–in the workplace and in entrepreneurship. From the gender pay gap, which is even bigger for minority women, to the “maternal wall,” to not receiving equal leadership opportunities or promotions, these hurdles are pushing more and more women of color into entrepreneurship so they can create their own playing field. However, even when launching their own businesses, women are the underdogs.

Women of color are a powerful force that will drive our economy. So why don’t we have more in leadership and entrepreneurial roles?

According to the American Express State of Women-Owned Businesses Report of 2016, it’s estimated that there are now 11.3 million women-owned businesses in the U.S., employing nearly 9 million people, and generating more than $1.6 trillion in revenues. The fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in America is black women, but only 56% were able to raise capital, which only averaged at a total of $36,000. According to Bustle, “this is just a fraction of the industry-wide average; a typical failed startup — which is often led by a white man — normally raises a whopping $1.3 million in investment.”

Lack of funding isn’t the only barrier holding them back. Another obstacle includes the lack of access to available resources, like mentorship and valuable networks. Why are they lacking these resources? Because there aren’t enough women of color in leadership positions to serve as mentors, and leaders aren’t reaching out to those that are different than them to mentor, or partner. Our Head of Culture and Innovation, Jessica Eggert said, “People tend to flock toward those who have similar identities as them, whether that be based on race, gender, sexual orientation, education, etc., so when you enter a space that predominantly looks like one type of person, you’ll most likely find them only providing access to people who look like them as well.”

So, how can we individually, and collectively, work to change these statistics? Work and support those that aren’t only different than you, but those that think differently as well. Reach out to grab coffee. To partner. To mentor. To invite women of color into your communities and networks. Our communities, and our nation, can stop being barriers holding women of color in entrepreneurship back. By doing this as individuals, we will collectively transform the entrepreneur community because it won’t just help create a level playing field, but it will start to include more diversity in our perspectives and ideas that are currently excluded from our conversations.

 

We’re joining forces with black women-owned businesses and community thought leaders tonight at The Riveter Capitol Hill. Let’s change these statistics.

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Photo credits: TONL