by Liz Ott · 10 Jul 2020 · 4 min read
Thirty years on Wall Street has taught me a few things about being a woman in the business world that I'd like to share with the next generation of multicultural women who want to start and scale a business. In the early days of my career, I had my own personal missteps amidst numerous victories.
Women, LGBTQIA+, and people of color entrepreneurs, we've got news for you!
I've worked in Human Resources for nearly a decade, and throughout all my roles, I've passionately incorporated diversity initiatives to help make companies more inclusive. Recently, many businesses have made public pledges around diversity in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests. Statements are one small step in the right direction, but much more needs to be done.
A message to CEOs, business leaders, and white people in general. For the past five years, I have worked with a grassroots organization, I Grow Chicago, to heal the root causes of trauma and violence in Englewood, a neighborhood that is 95% Black and 100% low-income. As I've engaged with this work, it has become increasingly clear that the root causes of trauma and violence in our community boil down to racism and white supremacy.
Since the controversial flood of the #blackouttuesday black squares on Instagram, newly-inspired social media activists have been grappling with how to contribute to the Black Lives Matter movement in a productive and authentic way. In addition to protesting, signing petitions, and donating to various organizations, social media has risen as an essential platform to share useful information and promote self-education.
The murder of George Floyd was a lightning rod galvanizing the Black Lives Matter movement and highlighting the vast inequalities that remain within our society and economy. Perhaps among the most striking of these is the widening racial wealth gap with Black families holding roughly one-tenth the wealth of white families. One key to ushering in a new age of greater social and racial equity lies in narrowing the vast wealth and earning disparities among the Black population, and Black women specifically.
I was heading down a dead-end path to nowhere. One night in February of 2019, I came home from my posh bowling birthday bash to depleted funds and depleted ambition. Drained by the idea that after all these years of living on this earth, not only was I not happy, but I also didn't seem to be moving or growing in the direction I'd always envisioned for myself. Since I was always raised to make a difference and not put limitations on myself, why had I succumbed to my circumstances? Why was I leveraging my time with men for money? Was I only here on earth to be a sex fantasy prop that any man could pick up and put down at will?
My mission as a founder has always been to add to the bottom line of people's businesses because at my company we know that's the only way for them to grow and scale as a business. I set out with a mission. I wanted to build something for the communities that are so often left out of mainstream "success" — immigrants, women, and other minorities.
From Facebook ad boycotts, alignment with #BlackLivesMatter, to ditching names like Aunt Jemima: social activism is the latest must-have for brands. But should you jump on the bandwagon? And how do you make the shift without getting labeled as inauthentic, especially if your brand has never talked about these issues before?
Walking into a huge beauty store similar to Sephora can be overwhelming as you confront rows and rows of bright products promising clear skin and high cheekbones. But as the light dims and you adjust, have you ever stopped to think about whether that lipstick or blush was created by a Black-owned beauty brand? With August being National Black Business Month, we want to further uplift Aurora James's work on the 15 Percent Pledge.