Updated: Sep 8, 2020
Black women have historically experienced roadblocks in achieving their career goals. From underrepresentation in C-Level positions to high levels of harassment in the workplace, Black women face different types of obstacles when trying to accomplish their career and financial goals.
Even with these obstacles, there are possibilities to advance. Black women may feel as if they are caught between a rock and hard place. However, by taking the skills that you have and shifting your mindset, you can accelerate your career. In other words, just a few tweaks can help you get that much closer to having the career of your dreams.
I can speak about this firsthand, as a black woman and entrepreneur who leveraged my skill set to accomplish my financial goals.
Prior to running my own businesses, I worked in the finance industry for 15 years. I painstakingly persevered and rose through the ranks to become a Vice President at a prestigious investment bank. In 2018, while working my corporate job, I invested in my friends’ company that imported Acai fruits. I then launched a trucking company and long hauled items across the country. In 2019, I decided to leverage the skills I gained in trucking and repurposed them in a home delivery business. Shortly thereafter, I decided to take the leap and fully capitalize on my entrepreneurial skills to financially support my family. I commoditized the skills that I developed early on in my career to start several different businesses with many streams of income. It became quite apparent to me that my earnings margin from self-capitalizing on my skill sets were significantly higher than working as a wage and salary employee. With my earnings from my business, I invested in real estate, the stock market, and other franchises, which paved the way for me to become a self-made millionaire within one year.
My journey towards financial freedom and independence continues to be paved with obstacles and roadblocks. I can completely relate to the sentiment of fear and doubt that begins to set in as you start to consider becoming an entrepreneur. Yes, the road may be difficult. Yes, you may fail. Yes, you may need to ask for help and guidance. However, by embracing entrepreneurship, self-capitalizing on their skill set, Black women can substantially increase their earnings and have a career that they absolutely love.
The Stark Reality of the Economic Wage Gap
As a Black woman, it is easy to be cynical. All you need to do is look at the data to see the stark reality of the economic wage gap.
According to a study from the National Partnership for Women and Families, published in March 2020, American Black women who work full-time, year-round earn 62 cents of every dollar that white, non-Hispanic men make. That number rises to 82 cents of every dollar that is paid to men generally.
This gap even exists in states where Black women are a large population of the workforce. In the 25 states where there is the largest number of Black women working full-time throughout the year, they are paid 47 to 67 cents of every dollar that white, non-Hispanic men make in those states.
We can also see this stark reality when looking at the median wages of Black women in the United States. Specifically, median wages of Black women are a little over $38,000 per year, while white, non-Hispanic men have median wages of around $61,000 per year. This gap of around $23,000 means that Black women have significantly less cash to support themselves and their families.
So what is the cause of this substantial wage gap? Some of the culprits include racial and gender discrimination, job segregation, a lack of job opportunities, and few workplace policies that support family caregiving. As a Black woman, you can undoubtedly come up with more reasons.
The bottom line? There are plenty of obstacles that prevent Black women from raising their earnings and accomplishing their career goals.
The Opportunities Through Self-Employment
All hope is not lost, however. Black women have an immense opportunity to increase their earnings through self-employment. Theoretically, Black women have been able to start their own businesses for decades. But that being said, major changes (like the rise of the Internet) have made that task much more realistic.
Yes, starting your own business can be immensely exciting. Most entrepreneurs pick an area that they are passionate about and create their businesses so that they never have to work a day in their lives. Yet the financial rewards of self-employment can be promising. This is true even if your business does not grace the cover of Forbes or goes public on the New York Stock Exchange.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, self-employed women have experienced the most dramatic increases in mean earnings. This is true whether these women were full-time or part-time entrepreneurs. Looking at trends from 1993 to 2012, we can see that full-time self-employed women increased their mean earnings by a dramatic 39 percent. Their mean hourly earnings went up by an even more impressive 53 percent.
And when looking at self-employed part-time women, the increases were even starker. Their mean annual earnings went up by 51 percent, mean weekly earnings increased by 64 percent, and mean hourly earnings shot up by 52 percent. The graphs below provide more context.
This data is from about eight years ago, so we can expect that these annual, weekly, and hourly earnings numbers have risen. And yes, the troubling news continues to be that women income across the spectrum is lower than male income. At its core, however, we can see that there are enticing opportunities for Black women who want to become their own bosses and make a healthy return at the same time.
Already, Black women entrepreneurs have started to move with their feet. According to data from American Express, Black women are starting more businesses than any other racial group. Since 2007, there has been a 164 percent increase in the number of firms owned by Black women. Around 44 percent of women-owned businesses in the United States are controlled by minority women. Ultimately, it is an exciting time to be a Black women entrepreneur.
Making the Transition From Employee to Entrepreneur
So considering the data and insights above, you may be intrigued about making the transition from employee to entrepreneur. On the other hand, you may have already had a business idea for some time now, but never quite made the leap to full-time entrepreneurship.
Whatever the case may be, there are some important things to keep in mind as you think about starting your own business.
One of the most important things is taking stock of your skills and experiences. One of the outstanding things about entrepreneurship is that you can leverage the skillset you already have when starting a business. While you will need to learn many different skills on your journey (like accounting, marketing, and sales), you can rely on skills that you already have to create your business’s core value proposition.
An example is helpful here. Let’s say that you have a day job, but spend time after work collecting vintage clothing. It has been a hobby that you have had for some years. You’re extremely passionate about finding and repairing vintage clothing and have developed a real eye for finding vintage clothing that you and your friends love. You can use your experience and talented eye to create an Etsy store or Shopify store. Not only will you get to do something that you already love, but you can make some serious cash.
This is just one example of taking stock of your skills and experiences. Importantly, your skills and experiences don’t need to be “formal” skills and experiences. They can be things that you learned outside of school or work. While you will certainly want to ensure that the product or service you develop has a market, this is a great way to start generating business ideas.
From skills and experiences, you should spend some time focusing on your mindset. It is too easy to think that a certain business idea, product, or service “won’t work.” These thoughts may be organic or you may be hearing them from your friends or family members. They can be crippling—especially if they come from someone that you have loved and respected throughout your life.
Ultimately, it’s critical to shift from a fixed mindset to an abundance mindset. Entrepreneurship is so exciting because there are so many possibilities. Yes, getting started can be scary. But serendipity is a huge part of being self-employed. You never know when a certain customer or prospect will take your business to the next level.
It takes time and a significant amount of work to shift your mindset. That said, try to retrain your brain to think about opportunities rather than impossibilities. By doing this, you’ll be surprised at how far your business can go.
Finally, I encourage you to embrace community. While there are more Black women entrepreneurs out there, the simple fact is that entrepreneurship is tough on everyone.
To make the path easier, try to reach out to other Black women entrepreneurs who you admire. An effective way to do this is to connect with others on social media. Beyond that, there are many organizations that support Black women entrepreneurs. Some of them include Forward Cities, Code2040, Black Girl Ventures, Code Fever, and more. By reaching out and embracing community, you'll find that the road is significantly easier.
Get Started Today
While Black women continue to face the economic wage gap, entrepreneurship can be a fantastic way to sidestep that wage gap. Not only is it financially rewarding, but it is inherently rewarding. By becoming an entrepreneur, you get to chart your own future. It is extremely liberating and something that has changed my life.
It can change your life as well. In the end, the best time to get started is now.
Connect with me so we can continue this conversation alongside other black women entrepreneurs who have already taken the journey you wish to pursue!