As a Black female who chose at an early age to sink my teeth into the male dominated media industry, both in front of and behind the camera, I have always understood the importance of breaking down barriers, especially when it comes to gender and race. But when I break down my role as a CEO, and mother of four, including two girls who I hope will grow up to be strong, powerful businesswomen in their own right, the urgency of this mission has taken on an even deeper significance. I believe that changing the trajectory for women and girls, particularly Black women, is not just a goal, but a responsibility that each of us must embrace.
Last week, I found myself compelled to come to the defense of the Fearless Fund, an organization under attack for its unwavering support of Black and brown female business owners. I am living proof of the positive impact such support can have.
I was fortunate enough to receive a "Women of Color" grant from the Fearless Fund that helped me on my journey as an entrepreneur. But my story is not unique. The truth is, despite being the driving force behind 42% of new entrepreneurs, Black female businesses account for less than 1% of venture capital (VC) funding, according to a CNBC report. Yet, this underrepresentation hasn't stopped us from making significant strides in economic empowerment.
Let's talk about influence. This weekend as the Fearless Fund held its nearly sold out VC Summit in Atlanta, Georgia, the value of investing in Black women owned businesses was undeniable. Black women aren't just consumers; we are trendsetters. Our choices, preferences, and standards set valuable trends across various industries – from music and television to fashion and beauty. Our influence even extends to other communities, impacting people's buying decisions.
The predictions from Nielsen are eye-opening – the buying power of the U.S. Black population is projected to reach an astonishing $1.8 trillion by 2024. And it doesn't stop there. By 2025, the Black population is estimated to grow by 21%, in stark contrast to the predicted 18% decrease in the non-Hispanic white population, according to consumer intelligence provider, NielsenIQ.
In industries like Beauty and Haircare, Black consumers have a significant presence, generating approximately $2.29 billion in annual sales. Haircare products sold by Black-owned brands are especially valued, with 38% of Black women willing to invest more in products that cater to our unique needs.
The entrepreneurship journey of Black women has been a hot topic in recent years, and rightfully so. We're not just creating businesses; we're reshaping industries globally. The COVID-19 pandemic acted as a catalyst, propelling Black women to become the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs. These numbers tell an inspiring story: according to a report in Black Enterprise, Black women own 2.7 million or 21% of all women-owned businesses in the U.S., marking a phenomenal 49.8% increase in female-owned businesses.
But our impact extends beyond business ownership. Employment participation rates for Black women remain consistently high, even when compared to other groups. Data from CNBC showed at the top of 2023 Black women’s labor force participation at 62.6%, the highest among all groups of women.
Unfortunately, those statistics do not carry over to the Fortune 500 C-Suite. Out of 44 women serving at the top of companies in the Fortune 500, only five are women of color according to the 2022 Women CEO’s Report. In the Russell 3000, only two are Black female CEO’s.
So, what's the bottom line? Black women may hold the key to economic recovery. Despite historic adversity and challenges, the potential we possess is undeniable. Decision-makers are beginning to recognize the immense value of ensuring that Black women are not just represented but also supported and celebrated.
As I invest my energy, time, and resources into initiatives like the Black Women Empowered Business Network, I do so with a profound belief in the power of unity, empowerment, and change. I'm not just investing in Black women; I am investing in the future my daughters will one day inherit – a future where their dreams are limitless, their opportunities are boundless, and their voices are heard.
Proud Mother, Entrepreneur, Advocate
Cathleen Trigg-Jones is a visionary entrepreneur, advocate, and co-founder of the Black Women Empowered Business Network (BWEBN). With a deep commitment to empowering black women in business, Cathleen's leadership extends to multiple platforms, including her role as the founder of iWoman TV. As a trailblazer in her own right, Cathleen champions diversity, inclusion, and economic empowerment, driving positive change for black women entrepreneurs and professionals. Through her relentless efforts, she continues to pave the way for a more equitable and prosperous future for all.
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