one more reason to buy local
Poverty. I wasn't poor growing up, but we didn't have many luxuries either. Many people experience financial difficulty at one point or another in their lifetimes, but few experience the systemic and debilitating poverty that single women, and especially, single women of colour, experience every day. In 2018, about 12.9% of women in the US lived in poverty as opposed to 10.6% of men. According to the government's official poverty threshold, a person is considered to be living in poverty if the household income for four people is less than $25,700USD, an amount that has been refuted many times by economists and other experts, so the actual percentage of women living in poverty is probably much higher. Native Americans (25.4%), African Americans (20.8%), Hispanics (17.6%), and Asian Americans (10.1%) make up 73.9% of all people living in poverty in the US, even though they represent less than 30% of the total population. These stats indicate that there is something seriously wrong with American financial institutions. People of colour, and especially women of colour, are being unfairly passed over by employers or being paid significantly less than their white counterparts. Despite this, many women are fighting back, and are carving out their own slices of the American economy while paving the way for others to do the same.
In 2017, 32 of the 500 companies on the Fortune 500 list had female CEOs. This number seems pitifully small, but there was a significant increase from the previous year where there were only 21 female CEOs. These days, women are launching more businesses than ever before, and for every ten businesses started by women, eight of those are started by women of colour. Minority women control 44% of all female owned businesses, a sharp increase from 1997, when that number was just 20%. These numbers paint a very hopeful picture for the future, but they are misleading; companies owned by minority women grow slower and are less profitable than those owed by white women or men. This is in part because of the difficulties many women of colour face when trying to apply for grants or business loans. Many turn to community support, family, friends, and their own pockets in order to get their businesses off the ground. According to the 2018 State of Women and Entrepreneurship survey, nearly 63% of women financed their businesses using their own savings. Aspiring businesswomen are also looking for support from female investors who have better knowledge of specific markets like skin care and wellness. Even so, most businesses owned by women of colour tend to generate less than $70,000 in annual revenue, which isn't much when you factor in things like over-head costs and hungry mouths. Of the 32 women who made it onto the Fortune 500 list, only two are women of colour.
One of the ways we can help even the playing field, is by supporting companies owned by women, and especially women of colour. Here are a few of the many amazing women out there who are working hard to create a name for themselves, while supporting others along the way:
Funlayo Alabi -Shea Radiance
After immigrating to the US from West Africa, she used her own retirement savings and investments from family and friends to launch her line of moisturizing products when banks refused to give her loans. Now, her business is very successful, and she uses her position to help women in Nigeria become financially independent. In the past, Shea Radiance trained Nigerian women to create their own moisturizers and soaps. Alabi also founded the Clean Cookstove Project, which aims to provide 1000 Nigerian women with clean cookstoves in order for them to have the means to earn their own incomes.
Amy Yeung - Orenda Tribe
Yeung used to work for fast fashion, but quit and moved from Los Angeles to New Mexico in order to be closer to the Navajo reservation there. An adopted child, Yeung's biological mother was Navajo, and she wanted to become more familiar her roots, as well as design more eco-conscious clothing. Yeung collects and upcycles vintage clothing, later adding her own touches and designs. She collaborates with other Navajo artists, and plans to launch her own charity organization: the K’é Foundation, later this year. She plans to focus on Indigenous youth with her first project being to build a skate park for the people living on the reservation.
Emerald Pellot - GRL TRBL
Drawing inspiration from her Dominican and Puerto Rican roots, Pellot creates pins and clothing that express her feminist and cultural ideals. She started making her pins as a response to the Trump administration in 2017, and now uses her platform to empower and raise awareness for the Afro Latinx community, and other women of colour. Her shop is currently closed due to COVID-19, but will hopefully be back up and running soon. In the meantime, check her out on Instagram!
Esmé Weijun Wang -Author
Esmé Weijun Wang is the author of The Border of Paradise and The Collected Schizophrenias. She was named a Best Young American Novelist by Granta, and has won a Whiting Award. Weijun Wang is Taiwanese American and was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and late-stage Lyme disease. She uses her voice to describe mental illness in an intelligent and thoughtful way. She's also involved with The Unexpected Shape and provides resources for people with limitations to help them achieve their goals. Her course, Rawness of Remembering, teaches how to write during difficult times.
As consumers and entrepreneurs, we have the power to support each other and collectively improve the living conditions of one another. Next time you're in the market for something, please consider supporting locally owned businesses. You never know how much your dollars could impact other people's lives.
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Cheng, Michelle. “Why Minority Women Now Control Nearly Half of All Women-Run Businesses.”Inc.com, Inc., 6 Nov. 2018, www.inc.com/magazine/201811/michelle-cheng/minority-women-entrepreneur-founder-womenable.html.
Hadasstest. “How These 5 Incredibly Successful Women of Color Entrepreneurs Got Started.”University of the People, 2 July 2019, www.uopeople.edu/blog/how-these-5-incredibly-successful-women-of-color-entrepreneurs-got-started/.
“Living Wage Calculator.”Living Wage Calculator, livingwage.mit.edu/articles/31-bare-facts-about-the-living-wage-in-america-2017-2018#:~:text=The living wage in the,wage for most American families.
“The Population of Poverty USA.”Poverty Facts | Poverty USA, www.povertyusa.org/facts.
“U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: United States.”Census Bureau QuickFacts, www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/IPE120218.