Women of Color–The Investment of this Century
Many of us have come to realize that racial equity requires much more than intentional conversations and thoughtful grants. These are important efforts and should not be discounted, but they are not panaceas. There is a moral imperative to address the disparities experienced by Black and Brown men and especially women in the US with action and systems change.
I want to suggest a new tool for your toolkit – and one that does not start from the place of “helping them.” It starts from a place of providing equitable access to the resources women of color need to create economic opportunity for themselves and their communities from within. It starts from “what the hell were we thinking all these years?”
You see, women of color are the fastest growing segment of entrepreneurs in the country. They create, they deliver, they inspire, and they are the heartbeat and cultural pulse of towns and communities around the nation. Women of color, and Black women in particular, are at the core of our economy with a high rate of labor market participation throughout their lives, as small business owners, and frequently as the breadwinner in their homes. And yet when we speak about racial justice, equity and economic mobility – why is the spotlight on Black women consistently removed or muffled?
This is not only bad because it neglects a key lever that can transform the financial future for communities, but it also leaves out what I believe is a critical data point: Women of color are the investment opportunity of the century.
Let’s start with some facts:
1) An investment in Black women entrepreneurs is an investment in our economic potential as a country.
American Express research from 2019 found that if revenues generated by minority women-owned firms matched those generated by all women-owned businesses, they would add four million new jobs and $1.2 trillion in revenue to the US economy.
2) An investment in Black women entrepreneurs represents a critical catalyst to change the economic reality of Black women, their families, and the economy as a whole.
According to Closing the Women’s Wealth Gap, Black women entrepreneurs have a median net worth 10 times greater than that of their nonbusiness-owning peers. As of 2019, women of color account for 50% of all women owned businesses.
3) Women of color have been found no less risky of an investment, and often less risky, than investing in their white male peers.
A study CNote conducted with the Bay Area small business accelerator, ICA, found that the default rate among minority females is not statistically different from that of white females or white males, and is lower than minority males.
4) Black women are consistently underestimated and underfunded.
According to the Kauffman Foundation, new Black-owned businesses start with almost three times less in terms of overall capital compared with new white-owned businesses, and Black entrepreneurs’ loan requests are three times less likely to be approved than those of white entrepreneurs.
We have a massive problem here.
Black women are one of the most important pieces of the puzzle when it comes to addressing systemic poverty and economic inequality. They also represent tremendous GDP potential for our country – in 2017 McKinsey reported that if Black-owned businesses could reach financial parity with their white counterparts in terms of revenue, it could represent an additional $190 billion in additional annual GDP – while also starting businesses on the path to economic freedom at historically high rates. And yet, we do not call them out and more importantly invest in them at near the frequency and depth that can truly catch up to their potential and our potential economic and societal growth.
If you believe Black women entrepreneurs represent a strong investment opportunity, how does one understand, underwrite and invest in that massive opportunity? How can an individual possibly get involved beyond philanthropically contributing to economic justice, but invest in a new system that highlights and celebrates the diversity, brilliance and success of today’s Black women entrepreneurs?
Here are a few places to get started:
- Impact America Fund – Founded by Kesha Cash, one of the first Black female partners in venture capital, is an impact venture capital fund investing in early stage companies that advance the economic agency and participation of low- and moderate-income communities of color in the U.S.
- Collab Capital – Led by three pioneering entrepreneurs turned founders, an investment fund leveraging financial, human, and social capital to help Black founders build sustainable, innovation-centered businesses by connecting them with Black investors and influencers.
- Wisdom Fund (a CNote entity) – CNote’s 100% impact bond that increases capital, access, and lending for businesses owned by women of color and aims to improve the lending process for these borrowers by substantiating the investment case for women of color borrowers.
- OFN’s Finance Justice Fund – A new socially responsible investment that aims to bring capital from corporate and philanthropic partners to communities underserved by mainstream finance and hardest hit by the current pandemic by accelerating the work of rural, urban, and Native CDFIs.
All four of these entities empower individuals to double down on their commitment to equity by investing in Black women in a truly intentional way with an eye towards sustainable growth and development. Equally, these organizations work to support the vision that women entrepreneurs of color have for their company and their community, and are committed to a partnership of wealth creation for Black women so that the power and intergenerational opportunity do not stay in the hands of the funder.
If you see, and hope as I do, that the next 80 years will be a time of repair, reality and healing for this country, then the concept of investing may be just right for you. While charity will certainly help an individual or a project get going or remain operational, an investment can be your way of contributing to a more equitable future for generations to come.
An investment recycles. An investment appreciates. An investment signals a commitment today for what tomorrow can bring, and as such, an investment in Black women can yield a more prosperous future for all of us.
Article by Catherine Berman, CEO and Co-founder of CNote, an impact investment platform that helps large institutions, like corporations, banks, and foundations move deposits and capital into community investments to address racial justice, climate change, and other pressing social issues. Catherine is a three-time entrepreneur with experience building scalable businesses. Her last startup grew into a multi-million dollar firm in less than four years. Prior to CNote, she worked as a Managing Director at Charles Schwab focused on new market segments and predictive analytics. At the vanguard of impact investing, Catherine has spoken at events hosted by Stanford, Oxford, Google, The Economist, SoCap, Coinbase, and others to challenge conventional thinking about money and meaning.