Struggles and Strategies of Black Women Business Owners in the U.S.
Black women start businesses at a rate above the national average. Yet, a revenue gap persists when compared to businesses owned by Black men and White men and women. Existing explanations for the differences in revenue highlight the lack of experience and limited access to start-up capital that constrain racial and gender minorities and also the type of industries in which they operate. Research specifically examining Black women business owners is very limited. In this article, we explore if Black women business owners’ gender and racial identities pose challenges to running their businesses. We find that, because of their race and gender, Black women business owners contend with unique challenges that many entrepreneurs do not face. In-depth interviews reveal that they confront negative stereotypes held about them and, surprisingly, experience difficulties interacting with Black clients. These entrepreneurs cite navigation strategies that include monitoring self-presentation, adopting standards of excellence, and creating clear professional boundaries. This study suggests that Black women business owners might be spending more time than other business owners navigating challenges specifically linked to their identity, which seems to impact their business directly.
Barr, M. 2015. Minority and Women Entrepreneurs: Building Capital, Networks, and Skills. The Hamilton Project 1-22. Washington, D.C.
Baker, T., H. E. Aldrich, and N. Liou. 1997. Invisible Entrepreneurs: The Neglect of Women Business Owners by Mass Media and Scholarly Journals in the USA, Entrepreneurship and Regional Development 9(3):221-38. https://doi.org/10.1080/08985629700000013
Bates, T. 1997. Race, Self-employment, and Upward Mobility. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Bates, T., & Robb, A. 2008. Analysis of Young Neighborhood Firms Serving Urban Minority Clients, Journal of Economics and Business, 60(1-2): 139-148. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jeconbus.2007.09.004
Bates, T., & Robb, A. 2014. Small-business Viability in America’s Urban Minority Communities, Urban Studies 51(13): 2844-2862. https://doi.org/10.1177/0042098013514462
Beauboeuf-Lafontant, T. 2003. Strong and Large Black Women? Exploring Relationships between Deviant Womanhood and Weight, Gender & Society 17(1): 111-121. https://doi.org/10.1177/0891243202238981
Beggs, J., Doolittle, D., & Garmsmoke, D. 1994. Entrepreneurship Interface: Linkages to Race, Sex, and Class, Race, Sex & Class 35-51.
Bell, E. L. 1990. The Bicultural Life Experience of Career-oriented Black Women, Journal of Organizational Behavior 11(6): 459-47. https://doi.org/10.1002/job.4030110607
Braguinsky, S., Klepper, S., & Ohyama, A. 2012. High-tech Entrepreneurship, The Journal of Law and Economics 55(4): 869-900. https://doi.org/10.1086/666488
Bogan, V., & Darity Jr, W. 2008. Culture and Entrepreneurship? African American and Immigrant Self-employment in the United States, The Journal of Socio-Economics 37(5): 1999-2019. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socec.2007.10.010
Butler, J. S. 2012. Entrepreneurship and Self-help among Black Americans: A Reconsideration of Race and Economics. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.
Calas, M. B., Smircich, L., & Bourne, K. A. 2009. Extending the Boundaries: Reframing ‘Entrepreneurship as Social Change’ through Feminist Perspectives, Academy of Management Review 34(3): 552-569. https://doi.org/10.5465/amr.2009.40633597
Carland, J. W., Hoy, F., Boulton, W. R., & Carland, J. A. C. 1984. Differentiating Entrepreneurs from Small Business Owners: A Conceptualization, Academy of Management Review 9(2): 354-359. https://doi.org/10.5465/amr.1984.4277721
Charmaz, K. 2014. Constructing Grounded Theory. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Collins, P. H. 2008. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment. New York, NY: Routledge.
Crenshaw, K. 1989. Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory, and Antiracist Politics, University of Chicago Legal Forum 1989(1): 139-167.
Dallalfar, A. 1994. Iranian Women as Immigrant Entrepreneurs, Gender & Society 8(4): 541-561. https://doi.org/10.1177/089124394008004005
Durr, M., & Harvey Wingfield, A. M. 2011. Keep your ‘N’ in Check: African American Women and the Interactive Effects of Etiquette and Emotional Labor, Critical Sociology 37(5): 557-571. https://doi.org/10.1177/0896920510380074
Fairlie, R. W., & Robb, A. M. 2007. Why are Black-owned Businesses Less Successful than White-owned Businesses? The Role of Families, Inheritances, and Business Human Capital, Journal of Labor Economics 25(2): 289-323. https://doi.org/10.1086/510763
Goffman, E. 1959. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Garden City, New York, NY: Anchor Books.
Hall, J. C., Everett, J. E., & Hamilton-Mason, J. 2012. Black Women Talk about Workplace Stress and How They Cope, Journal of Black Studies 43(2): 207-226. https://doi.org/10.1177/0021934711413272
Harvey, A. M. 2005. Becoming Entrepreneurs: Intersections of Race, Class, and Gender at the Black Beauty Salon, Gender & Society 19(6):789-808. https://doi.org/10.1177/0891243205280104
Heilman, M.E., Wallen, A.S., Fuchs, D., & Tamkins, M.M. 2004. Penalties for Success: Reactions to Women Who Succeed at Male Gender-Typed Tasks, Journal of Applied Psychology 89(3): 416-427. https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-9010.89.3.416
Hundley, G. 2001. Why Women Earn Less than Men in Self-employment, Journal of Labor Research, 22(4): 817-829. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12122-001-1054-3
Huntley-Hall, N. 2017. Number of Minority-Owned Employer Firms Increased in 2015, United States Census Bureau. Washington, D.C.
Hout, M., & Rosen, M. 2000. Self-Employment, Family Background, and Race, Journal of Human Resources 35(4): 670-692. https://doi.org/10.2307/146367
Loscocco, K. A., & Leicht, K. T. 1993. Gender, Work-Family Linkages, and Economic Success among Small Business Owners, Journal of Marriage and the Family 55(4): 875-887. https://doi.org/10.2307/352769
Loscocco, K. A., & Robinson, J. 1991. Barriers to Women's Small-business Success in the United States, Gender & Society 5(4): 511-532. https://doi.org/10.1177/089124391005004005
McManus, Michael, and Regulatory Economist. 2016. Minority Business Ownership: Data from the 2012 Survey of Business Owners. U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy. Washington, D.C.
National Women’s Business Council. 2015. Black Women-Owned Businesses: NWBC Analysis of 2012 Survey of Business Owners, National Women’s Business Council. Washington, D.C.
Renzulli, L. A., Aldrich, H., and Moody, J. 2000. Family Matters: Gender, Networks, and Entrepreneurial Outcomes, Social Forces 79(2): 523-46. https://doi.org/10.2307/2675508
Reynolds-Dobbs, W., Thomas, K. M., & Harrison, M. S. 2008. From Mammy to Superwoman: Images that Hinder Black Women's Career Development, Journal of Career Development 35(2):129-150. https://doi.org/10.1177/0894845308325645
Robinson, J., Blockson, L., & Robinson, S. 2007. Exploring Stratification and Entrepreneurship: African American Women Entrepreneurs Redefine Success in Growth Ventures, The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 613(1): 131-154. https://doi.org/10.1177/0002716207303586
Robles, B. J., & Cordero-Guzmán, H. 2007. Latino Self-employment and Entrepreneurship in the United States: An Overview of the Literature and Data Sources, The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 613(1): 18-31. https://doi.org/10.1177/0002716207303541
Ruef, M. 2010. The Entrepreneurial Group: Social Identities, Relations, and Collective Action. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Silverman, R. M. 1999. Ethnic Solidarity and Black Business, American Journal of Economics and Sociology 58(4): 829-841. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1536-7150.1999.tb03396.x
U.S. Department of Education. 2017. Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Groups 2017 (NCES 2017-051), National Center for Education Statistics.
West, L. M., Donovan, R. A., & Daniel, A. R. 2016. The Price of Strength: Black College Women’s Perspectives on the Strong Black Woman Stereotype, Women & Therapy 39(3/4): 390-412. https://doi.org/10.1080/02703149.2016.1116871
Wingfield, A. 2007. The Modern Mammy and the Angry Black Man: African American Professionals' Experiences with Gendered Racism in the Workplace, Race, Gender & Class 14(1/2): 196-21.
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).