WOMEN OF COLOR IN BUSINESS
Since the beginning of time, men have controlled every aspect of our lives. They caught the food, found the land, wrote the laws, designed the clothes, constructed the buildings, built the companies that accomplished all of this, and made decisions about absolutely everything. Yet, they still decide to blame women when things go wrong.
When a woman is in charge, she is placed under the most invasive microscopes and held up to inconceivable standards. So how do they do it? Who are these trailblazers making the business arena more welcoming to female voices turning the glass ceiling into glass floors? Malcolm X famously expressed that “the most disrespected person in America is the black woman.”
In a position that demands respect, I’m sure every black businesswoman has a million examples as to how true that statement still is. If nothing else, this is why they deserve to be recognized for their efforts in changing every sector of the business world to become a better and more inclusive place for people of color.
You often hear about women dominating the box office, but you rarely hear about them dominating the executive’s office. Of these women, one name you’ve probably seen rolling in the credits section is that of Ava DuVernay. She is best known for her work on powerful and poignant films such as Selma, The 13th, and A Wrinkle in Time. She became the first black woman to be nominated for a Golden Globe for best director and the first black female director to have her film nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture.
Since then, she has been elected to the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Board of governors as part of the director’s branch. She has many credits under her belt, so she is worth the research if you decide to get inspiration from someone in Hollywood. Accolades like this don’t come easily.
In a conversation with The Oprah Magazine, DuVernay said that “I always used to say I’m not going to knock on closed doors—I’m going to make my own door. When I come here [the Array offices], I’m walking through my own doors. I built my own door, I built it.” Talk about a powerhouse in production!
Female music producers seem to be too few and far between. Since the first Grammy’s ceremony in 1974, only six women have been recognized for their work as producers. Janet Jackson was the first female nominated for the award in 1989 for her platinum-selling album Rhythm Nation.
Then came Mariah Carey with her hit Emotions in 1991, followed in 1997 by Paula Cole– the first woman to be nominated on her own without male co-producers. The following year brought nominations for Sheryl Crow for her album The Globe Sessions, and Lauryn Hill for The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.
Finally, came Lauren Christy as part of the production team with The Matrix. Every music genre in the business has been updated and improved with the feminine Midas touch. Hip-hop is no exception. A major topic of debate on the internet right now is the double standard when it comes to sexually explicit lyrics in rap songs. Men have objectified women’s bodies in filthy lyrics for decades, but when women began to do it, it’s been seen as degrading to their own gender and non-ladylike.
Going against the ancient ideals of feminine modesty, rappers like Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B are altering how women perceive their own bodies and the power they withhold. Whether you think it’s filthy or empowering, it’s sparking conversations and normalizing female self-sexualization worldwide.
In television, there is no better-known name than that of Oprah Winfrey. She created a multi-platformed empire and opened doors for black women in completely varying facets of entertainment. It would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to find someone comparable.
That was until Shonda Rhimes came along and practically created a whole new genre around her name. Shondaland is a television production company founded by Rhimes, which has produced massively popular TV shows such as Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away With Murder— all massively successful long-running shows with diverse casts. As a passionate writer, she sat down for an interview with Oprah.
She discussed her writing process for the female characters on Grey’s Anatomy as needing to change the mold of how women used to be inaccurately portrayed on television. “I wanted to create a world in which you felt as if you were watching very real women,” she explained. “Most of the women I saw on TV didn’t seem like people I actually knew. They felt like ideas of what women are. They never got to be nasty or competitive or hungry or angry. They were often just the loving wife or the nice friend. But who gets to be the bitch? Who gets to be the three-dimensional woman?”
In a world that was seriously lacking, she made it her business to portray normal and complex women on television to normalize imperfect traits and complicated emotions.
Rose Adkins Hulse, the founder and CEO of Screen Hits TV, has built a one-stop streaming service through her drive, fierce determination, and unwavering self-confidence. As a former employee of established corporate Hollywood, she set her sights on her startups. That became Screen Hits TV, the success of which she attributed to manifesting her ideas by giving 100% of her energy into it.
That was her secret to founding and running a successful service. Her message is that this energy is required when people aren’t used to seeing someone who looks like her being a powerful and innovative force in the tech and business worlds. The combination of the two makes her an asset to her own companies and an unequivocal boss in business with a killer fashion sense.
No matter where you stand politically, the accomplishments of women in politics have added a voice that was overlooked for far too long. Vice-presidential hopeful Kamala Harris is the first African-American and the first Asian-American to be nominated for Vice President for a major party in a presidential election.
Before that, she was no stranger to making history, as she was the first person of color elected as district attorney in San Francisco, the first African American and first South Asian American to become Attorney General in California, and the first South Asian American to serve in the US Senate.
While some of her actions as a district attorney have raised some eyebrows to the black community, her nomination is a testament to her lifelong dedication, hard work, and determination amidst the challenges that come with being a woman of color in politics.
New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has taken social media by storm with her brilliant millennial energy toward helping the less fortunate from the difficult web of a landscape that is congress. She has brought a voice to the Latinx community, as well as a female voice that says everything women wish they could say to the white men in power.
As a leader, she speaks for the common human. Not just Americans. She has advocated for immigrant rights and the abolition of ICE, the government entity that the Trump administration has taken full advantage of in his efforts to separate families, place them in horrid conditions, and essentially ruin the lives they worked so hard to build in the United States. AOC is the voice of strength for women who know what it feels like to have that voice diminished by men.
Beauty Bakerie CEO Cashmere Nicole has created a gorgeous brand with amazing food-themed packaging. Her loose setting powders are placed in a bag of flour. It even goes so far as to have a nutrition facts label on the side. It’s adorable and diverse with thoughtful touches for the colored woman. Every product is a sweet work of art. As a brand, they’re thriving, and as a CEO, no one is more committed to brand aesthetic coordination and consistency. So it’s safe to say that she is enjoying sweet, sweet success.
Nigerian born Founder, CEO, and creative director of Uoma Beauty, Sharon Chuter is a seasoned beauty industry executive with a passion for inclusivity and diversity in the makeup community. Her brand, Uoma Beauty has strived for beautiful and groundbreaking makeup formulas for all skin tones.
For too long, beauty brands have discounted and disregarded makeup shades for darker women because they weren’t confident in their selling power. As brands are becoming more inclusive, time and time again, backwards thinking has been proven wrong.
Being a woman in corporate America comes with its own unique challenges. Being a woman of color also comes with its set of challenges. So it makes sense to combine those problems to create a brand and product that strictly aims to solve daily problems that women of color face.
Skincare is a global billion-dollar industry. Still, most of the products that are Shontay Lundy is an active woman who recognizes the importance of protecting your skin from harmful UV rays. Melanated women tend to have a difficult time finding sunscreens that won’t leave a white residue behind.
The solution: Lundy’s game-changing skincare brand BlackGirlSunscreen. It completely absorbs as not to leave that annoying residue. The formula nourishes and protects darker skin and allows for a safe day in the sun.
Nancy Twine is the youngest African American to launch a product line at the massive retailer Sephora. From a humble studio apartment in NYC, she and her grandmother curated the cruelty-free and clean hair care brand, Briogeo. As most passion projects begin, hers started from bonding with her mom making their hair products at home with raw ingredients.
She aims to encourage women to treat their hair with the same care that they show their skin. Her products are meant to detoxify, hydrate, and nourish your hair without using harsh ingredients such as sulfates, silicones, parabens, phthalates, DEA, or artificial hair dyes. Her product range is inclusive and dynamic, with thoughtful touches in every application.
While the fashion industry is primarily geared toward women, men tend to dominate the high-end world of designer fashions. Few women have broken the mold to create their own luxury brands such as Vera Wang and Donna Karan. It should be a given that women will create and sell better clothing for women.
Vera Wang has become a household name in wedding dress designs. Despite her humble beginnings in New York to Chinese immigrant parents, she leveraged her degree from Sarah Lawrence into an enviable career as a senior fashion editor at Vogue. At age 40, she finally decided to go off on her own as a fashion designer. She’s stated that as a 39-year-old bride, she found difficulty finding the perfect gown. Her father inspired her to turn that into an opportunity.
While leaving a steady and lucrative career behind, her new challenge was to “find something [she] felt passionate about, to make a difference, and to work, so that’s what [she] did.” She later became a favorite amongst celebrity brides, including Victoria Beckham and Jennifer Lopez. Forbes has estimated her net worth at roughly $400 million.
We’re all familiar with the iconic leadership and success behind Beyonce’s Ivy Park and Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty empire. Still, some attention is lacking for Kyemah McEntyre, the 22-year-old artist and fashion designer who went viral for her homemade African-inspired prom dress. Her talents didn’t go unnoticed as she went on to pursue a degree at Parsons School of Design, while also designing gowns for celebs like Naturi Naughton, Condola Rashad, and Danai Gurira for Black Panther press events.
By placing these women on the pedestals they deserve, we’re bringing recognition to women who don’t make their careers out of being style icons with pretty faces. Find and support your local business, headed by a woman of color. The hard work that it takes to found, sustain, and grow your own business from the ground up is one of the most difficult and time-consuming jobs to be successful at.
With these difficulties comes respect–something the average black woman has been robbed of in more ways than seem to be fathomable. Empower these women. Lift them up and support them so that one day a woman in high power won’t be such a rare feat to achieve.
Regardless of the hardships, if you want to succeed in business, you have to find a dream that you’re passionate about. Turn that passion into a career and surround yourself with good people you can learn from. Learn as much as you can so that one day you can create a world for yourself in which you have total control.