As it turns out, women of color do not need the “Lean In” as much as their white counterparts do. What they do need is a “Lean On” movement instead.
In her article, “Minority Women Entrepreneurs: Go-Getters Without Resource,” President & CEO of the Capital City African American Chamber of Commerce Natalie Madeira Cofield points out that despite Sheryl Sandberg’s intention to galvanize women to take ownership of their own professional growth, the “Lean In” movement manages to ignore the limited resources available to the nation’s fastest growing group of entrepreneurs: Latinas and African American women. Cofield explains:
Amidst the women entrepreneurial and ‘lean in’ movements brought to the forefront most prominently by Sheryl Sandberg, there has been a shortage of perspectives on the difficulties of minority women who have few people and very little financially to ‘lean on.’ The reality is–similar to the women’s suffrage movement, which for the most part excluded minority women–middle-to-upper class educated white women have driven much of the recent conversation.
Cofield argues that women of color have historically been faced with unique socio-economic obstacles that they’re white counterparts are less likely to experience. These obstacles include–but are not limited to–being the head of a single-parent household, having limited access to seed capital and lacking a supportive, culturally sensitive network.
Statistically, women of color lead the pack when it comes to entrepreneurship, so it makes little sense that networks and organizations that cater to their particular needs are so few and far between.
According to the Center for Women’s Business Research:
Hispanic and African American women are the fastest growing entrepreneurial segments in the country growing at rates of 133.3% and 191.4% respectively from 1997 to 2007.
In her article, Cofield echos ELLA Institute founder Dr. Angelica Perez-Litwin’s call for tight-knit, culturally relevant business cooperatives, collectives and associations. For their part, the ELLA Leadership Institute, the Latina Leadership Network, and Cofield’s Walker’s Legacy provide minority women entrepreneurs with multi-platform networks on which they can lean. These networks have identified and addressed the issues facing minority women entrepreneurs today, leading the way in what should be a growing “Lean On” movement.
Share your thoughts on the matter! Which do you think women of color need more: a “Lean In” movement or a “Lean On” movement?