August 13, 2020
I’ve been ruminating in some intellectual and emotional exploration recently that’s lead to the launch of a new SheSyndicate Working Group and would like to share. The below will weave in threads of women’s economic empowerment, recent personal self-reflections, the impact investing industry and diverse founders, my role and relevance as a White practitioner in this space, a stream metaphor, and some budding new entrepreneurial interests I’ve been playing with. My flow meanders, intentionally so; it reflects how these threads are converging in my mind and heart and have led me to the formation of a working group on this particular topic. Flow with me, please…
Today, August 13th is Black Women’s Equal Pay Day. Not exactly a day to be celebrated, but definitely a day worth knowing. You may have heard of Women’s Equal Pay Day, which this year fell on March 31st, 2020; a day that represents how far into the new year a woman would have to work on average to make the same income as a White man by year-end the previous year, all other factors remaining equal. That equates overall to women earning 81.6 cents per dollar that a White man makes. These figures vary greatly, though, for women of color. Black women earn only 62 cents/dollar, Native American women 57 cents/dollar, and Latina women 54 cents/dollar. For more information, LeanIn.Org has done an extensive review of unequal pay data and stratified across races, educational levels, industries, and geographies. I highly recommend checking out their easy-to-digest visual overview of the gender pay gap.
Who I Am
I’ve been in gender lens investing for a few years now, helped launch an early-stage gender lens portfolio coLABS that I’m extremely proud of, and have long held a passion for empowering and championing my fellow women in their careers, as entrepreneurs, as investors, as mothers, and in our day to day lives. So, to be candid, it struck me as concerning (and humbling, not in the nice feeling way) that I’d never heard of Equal Pay Day, especially stratified for other races of women. This is a common reflection/blind spot I’m discovering and sitting with for myself in recent months--how my efforts as a gender lens practitioner and just fellow woman have fallen short of seeing the unique needs, talents, challenges, and where I’m blocking that advancement unknowingly of women of color around me. Most painfully for my personal reflections and my own heart, rock star Black women around me. This isn’t a wholly new concept for me, of course--that women of color have unique obstacles. Instead, what’s new is a heightened intentional attention to where I personally am falling short in my own advocacy, where I’ve taken an assumed blanket approach to women’s empowerment. I’m guessing, and hoping, others are also awakening more to how we’ve fallen short as sisters to each other, and have used that information not to stay beating ourselves up, but to move into and through that discomfort to be of greater service, impact, harness our agency, and actively listen more deeply.
I’m a social enterprise and investment coach and creative financial strategist. I love how money can be deployed in innovative (what word is used way too often) ways to not only help an individual live out his/her values and find the personal fulfillment and meaning in that endeavor. But also how money can flow to empower, disrupt, unlock talent and opportunity, and catalyze change ‘downstream’ also. There’s a personal journey with our money and where we choose to invest it, no matter how much or little we own. And there’s also a societal impact and broader ripple effect we can enact with our money; money can help catalyze solutions, businesses, and invest in talented people. I love to journey with people to explore both--the personal journey of wealth-in-action and the financial strategy around bringing social enterprises to life. So naturally, as my lens widens about where I’m overlooking intentional and meaningful impact on women of color in my own life, my own relationships, my own career, and my own strategies around empowering women, I am also becoming more cognizant to gaps in diverse voices among funders and fellow investors. And it has me wondering, “Where’s the opportunity for increased diversity ‘upstream’? Who can I collaborate with to empower, support, and activate more diverse sources of wealth?”
I’m based in Atlanta, Georgia. A city FULL of Black talent, Black entrepreneurs (men and women), Black leadership, Black history, and Black influence. So naturally, I find myself most pulled toward sitting with an open exploration around how I can use whatever capital (social, intellectual, financial, spiritual) I have to support Black wealth holders here in my own backyard. And ultimately, to hopefully ease some of the fundraising challenges for ‘downstream’ players (social entrepreneurs, non-profit leaders, fund managers) from diverse backgrounds. As an impact investor, I’ve seen many people who look like me at the table, at our conferences, in our investor networks, and running social enterprises. Nothing against them (that’s me!) of course. I’ve tried to leverage my roles to invite others who don’t look like me to sit at my tables/networks with me (and I could really be doing this more; plenty of room for improvement here). And also recently, it got me thinking, “Well, what if other wealth holders would prefer to build their own tables/networks rather than sit at these established ones? Is there a role I can play to support their desires and needs for ecosystem building, even if it’s outside of my sandbox? Do similar peer support systems exist for other communities of investors that I have as a White funder?”
Why I Launched this Working Group
I’ve created an Activating Black Capital Working Group here with SheSyndicate to invite others who share my same sincere and intentional curiosity for bridge building and ecosystem building among, what I refer to as, ‘upstream’ players (funders, investors, philanthropists). I want to, and have been, exploring how I could use whatever tools I have to support and amplify the power of Black capital in manifesting increased possibility (and increased investment capital) for more-than-deserving diverse talent ‘downstream.’ As Barry Givens with Collab Capital said on the virtual ATL(BLK)TCH online event last week: “How do we get more Black investors into the game? Because investors naturally invest in people who look like them.”
And Barry’s spot on. We’ve seen the trend in market influence of more women taking the helm of their investment capital and this trickle-down increased support for women-led ventures when more women got into the angel investing arena. Granted, like my own blindspots in gender lens investing and advocating for all my fellow women, it’s been disproportionately benefiting White women while still leaving a surplus of Black women entrepreneurs (the fastest growing segment of entrepreneurs too!) unfunded. Hence, my interest in looking ‘upstream’ for more sources of capital who resemble the entrepreneurial talent that’s boom ‘downstream.’
At this point, I don’t have an answer or any solutions. I have some ideas and a few really talented and energetic thought-partners in this ecosystem-building brainstorm with me. We’ll see what ideas and market opportunities we birth within our Working Group. But as I’m learning, I’d love to elevate and show appreciation more for the talent, voices, and insight of the Black colleagues around me who are contributing to my creative (and personal) entrepreneurial exploration. And I invite others who are interested in this question around bridge-building and supporting Black wealth to join us.
Black Perspectives Spotlight Series
As today’s Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, I figured it’s as good a reason as any to share more publicly what I’ve been having conversations about privately. Over the coming weeks, I’ll be showcasing some of those who have been in this collective brainstorm around activating Black capital with me. I’ll share learnings and excerpts from my conversations with some of the Black women and men who are helping to inform my own gendered and racial lens of perception of the world around me (and impact investing market, more specifically)--of the challenges, opportunities, existing players, social impact intersections amongst industries, and where I can harness my own agency, combine the tools in my toolbox maybe in a new way to address blindspots in my past efforts. We talk about Black wealth creation, the edges of our emotional comfort zone in bridge building, creative support programs tailored for the needs of under-funded (and over-talented) entrepreneurs, my relevancy (or lack thereof) as a White woman interested in this topic, innovative financial products and crowd-source platforms that could empower capital of smaller amounts, how it feels as a Black woman navigating personal and professional life right now, and generally, gaps in the ‘leaky pipeline’ (as the Kapor Center coined) between investors and social entrepreneurs, between funding and the solutions that need it. Over the coming weeks, I invite you to learn with me and reflect where your own aperture could be widened also. And I invite you into the brainstorm with me.
Speaking of elevating Black women’s voices, Maya Angelou just keeps it short and simple with this one, which resonates for my current gender lens investing journey.
She also said this. I include, because it’s true. And cheeky.
"I am grateful to be a woman. I must have done something great in another life."
Cheers to women investing in women (financially and otherwise), and women learning from women. (And from men also; you’re also invited to our table.) I invite you to join me in my Activating Black Capital Working Group ongoing conversations. Would love to have more creative and intentional brains at our collaborative table.
By Anna Cable
Activating Black Capital Working Group