Brands cannot authentically profess solidarity when there are hardly any Black people in decision-making positions.
(Noelle Loyello/Rowdy Magazine Designer)
Brands are finally making bold statements in support of Black Lives Matter following George Floyd’s murder two weeks ago. They are finally speaking out against the violence and killing of Black men and women by police officers due to current unrest nationwide. Some have donated to fight racial injustice and others posted #BlackoutTuesday statements of support. However, if brands are going to speak, they need to be clear on their long-term actions to be anti-racist. Otherwise, it looks opportunistic and inauthentic to consumers.
One-time donations and social media posts are not going to work to dismantle racism on a systemic level. Brands cannot profess solidarity when there are hardly any black people in decision-making positions.
In response to corporate America’s public facade of support for Black lives, UOMA Beauty Founder and CEO Sharon Chuter launched the #PullUpOrShutUp campaign to raise awareness of racism within the hiring practices in companies.
UOMA disclosed its team on Instagram, openly supporting diverse representation in executive leadership. Around 75% of their leadership are people of color.
Chuter wants brands to be transparent about how many Black employees they have within corporate and leadership roles in their organizations. She calls consumers to ask brands to release public reports of their numbers and vote with their wallets.
On her Instagram account @pullupforchange, Chuter encourages brands to consider their roles in perpetuating racism. Over 40 brands, in addition to Loreal USA and its subsidiaries, have released their statistics. You can view the full list on the Instagram linked above.
Even brands who have been making lofty donations had dismal results.
Glossier became one of the first major brands across all industries to announce it will be donating $500,000 through various Black-supporting organizations, in addition to $500,000 in grants to Black-owned beauty businesses to make an impact in their industry.
While that’s to be commended, the company shared that only 9% of their corporate employees are Black, and no Black people possess leadership positions. They are a little above the industry average of 8%.
Popular brands such as Colourpop and Morphe came in at only 3%. Lime Crime Makeup reported having no Black people in their corporate headquarters.
This is not just an issue in the beauty industry, but every single one.
CBS News reports that Black people make up 12% of the U.S. population but hold only 3.2% of senior leadership roles and just 0.8% of all Fortune 500 CEO positions.
Chuter said that leads to poverty, oppression and marginalization and then –– desperation.
“To at this point, to still be absolving yourself of the role you have played and continue to play in the marginalization and oppression of Black people, shows that a lot of these efforts may be PR stunts,” she said.
Making donations is a start, but Black people remain absent from within organizations, even though ethnic and racial diversity in management brings in more financial returns.
Harvard Business Review concludes that racial diversity at the executive level makes organizations smarter and more profitable.
Also, there is a wealth of evidence for immense Black buying power. Black spending on health and beauty items account for $1.2 trillion each year, and that number is expected to increase to $1.5 trillion by 2021, according to Essence.
In recent years, beauty companies have started to recognize Black buying power and expand their ranges and marketing to include them.
Rihanna launched a revolutionary shade range with Fenty Beauty in 2017, after seeing a gap in the beauty market for products that worked for all skin colors and types. Forbes reported that in its first 15 months of operation, the brand amassed $570 million in revenue. She proved to the rest of the industry that including Black people is profitable.
Black spending power demands that their beauty needs should be met. Non-Black-owned and white majority brands can’t afford to ignore Black consumers and continue to supply them with a one-size-fits-all approach to products.
So not only is it racist to not include Black people in decision-making, it’s stupid –– it’s actually losing brands’ money.
In recent years, brands have diversified their shade ranges and advertised Black models on social media pages. But most importantly, brands need to consider Black people not just for their wallets.
This is not a PR challenge but a call for real and systemic change. There has never been a more essential time for companies to assemble a lasting and wholehearted connection with Black consumers and take steps to diversify their teams.
Brands’ ability to traverse the nuances of culturally and socially relevant issues and become conscious of racism is imperative. If your customer base is not congruent with corporate staff, you need to ask why.
“You can’t say Black Lives Matter publicly when you don’t show Black lives matter within your own homes and within your organizations,” Chuter said.
Taking steps to diversity teams are smarter for business and lets people know you’re honest in your activism.
As Chuter said, “Talk is cheap, you need to pull up for real this time or please, shut up."
Carissa Costello is a Contributing Writer for Rowdy Magazine.