We know Women’s History Month is all about celebrating women, which we intend on doing, of course – all month. But alongside the celebrations, we wanted to shed light on the often underrepresented – women of colour. According to statistics, the business world has seen more women of colour starting their own businesses. No doubt this is great news, I mean who wouldn’t want to be their own boss? We looked into some of the factors which have driven women of colour to entrepreneurship and found a mixed response:
1. Limited opportunities:
Many women of colour have reported a lack of opportunity in the workplace. This includes finding employment, but also career progression. You’re probably wondering why not just find a job or apply for that promotion? It’s hard for us all, right? Well, here’s the thing: women of colour are often subject to something called systemic racism which develops within institutions as early as primary school. This simply means women of colour are less likely to get jobs or promotions compared to their white peers. On the bright side, this has resulted in a surge of women of colour starting their own businesses and absolutely killing it!
2. Microaggressions in the office:
Microaggressions – not many are familiar with this term, but almost every woman of colour has or will eventually experience it in the workplace. To put into simple terms, it usually comes in the form of remarks about an ethnic person’s accent, hair, lunch and many more. It is subtle and indirect discrimination and very uncomfortable for women of colour. This is not to say women of colour aren’t open to friendly compliments or genuine questions, of course, but perhaps try to understand why certain comments may be perceived in a negative light. For example; if you’re loving your colleague’s new sleek tresses, it’s ok to tell her you love it, maybe try to do so without comparing it to her natural ‘fro. And remember at the end of the day, we are all just learning.
3. Child responsibilities:
Ok, we’re not saying that having your own business is all play and no work. But it does provide mothers especially with more flexibility than the office does. Say for example you know you have to do the school-run every morning, perhaps a 10-6 workday would suit you better than the 9-5 your office just refuses to bend. We are completely aware that most women will have this issue one way or another; but statistically more women of colour are the head of their homes, making childcare a major factor when considering work.
4. Underrepresentation and non-suitability in major industries:
Think about how often you’ve seen a black woman with thick, coarse hair on a major shampoo commercial? What about a deep South-Asian complexion in a make-up advert? Maybe these products just aren’t aimed at women of colour because they aren’t suitable. A shame, but never mind because that’s why women of colour have been working overtime to create products which are compatible with ethnic skin and hair. Check out Suneeta London, a small family business which handmakes all-natural, chemical-free skincare products.
5. The future generations:
It is very important that not only children of colour, but all children grow up seeing women of colour handle their business (literally!). This will help to eliminate the imposter syndrome for the future generation; where women of colour feel underqualified or simply not good enough for a role which they are more than capable of doing, usually due to factors such as being the only one of their kind in a position of such. The more women of colour we see joining entrepreneurship, the more it becomes normalised.
Despite what seems like a series of unfortunate circumstances, women of colour continue to practice and prove resilience by defying obstacles thrown at them.
So, here’s a final thought: The next time you come across a women-of-colour-owned business; purchase something, post about it, leave a review – let’s support our fellow CEO sister’s – a little goes a long way!