Attacks on Corporate DEI Are Hurting Black Women First

We must stop the Supreme Court’s affirmative action decision from making our workplaces less equitable, too.

In 2021, Black women start-up founders received just 0.34 percent of the total venture capital spent in the United States. (The Good Brigade / Getty Images)

Melinda French Gates declared late last year that “it’s time to change the face of power in venture capital,” noting that “we need to break down the systemic barriers that are keeping women-led funds from expanding their assets under management.” 

As two Black women working to support economic prosperity, wealth-building and community development, this resonates deeply with us. We know firsthand how investments in small businesses, housing and community revitalization can transform lives and create opportunities for historically neglected and abandoned populations—especially Black women. 

And economic conservatives know this, too. 

As experts in our field and industry suspected, the Supreme Court’s ruling to strike down affirmative action created a cascading wave of attacks on corporate DEI initiatives meant to level the playing field and eradicate the racial wealth gap. The American Alliance for Equal Rights, founded by conservative lawyer Edward Blum, recently sued the Fearless Fund—a venture capital fund founded to support Black women entrepreneurs—accusing it of unlawful discrimination. In the suit, Blum and his team claim that the Fearless Fund is guilty of violating the Civil Rights Act of 1866. 

The lawsuit is absurd, frivolous, dangerous and meticulously planned.

Black women are the fastest-growing demographic of entrepreneurs in the United States, owning 2 million businesses and counting. And that is due, in part, to the economic status of so many of us in this country. 

Black women in this country already face a financial double disadvantage: We have lower earnings than Black men, as well as white men and women. When we are in the job market, research has shown that Black women “are more ambitious and more likely to say that they want to advance in their companies more than their white women counterparts, but are less likely to find mentors who will aid their climb up the corporate ladder.” 

It is no surprise that many of us would choose to forge a path for ourselves with entrepreneurship—yet even that comes with its own barriers. In 2021, Black women start-up founders received just 0.34 percent of the total venture capital spent in the United States. 

We cannot close the racial wealth gap without programs specifically designed to support Black women.

Black women and our families deserve more than just what we need to survive, and corporate programs designed to support us can help us thrive.

By undermining these programs for Black women, opponents of financial equity hinder our progress to close the racial wealth gap, achieve economic stability, and build wealth for our families and communities. We must fight against legal attacks that take away opportunities from Black women before they take away opportunities for other communities too.

To know how well programs targeting Black women specifically have been shown to work in closing the racial and gender opportunity gap in our communities, just look to New Orleans. Black New Orleanians have long faced a common limiting factor in growing contracting businesses in New Orleans: access to capital.

But the tides are turning, entrepreneur by entrepreneur, thanks to DEI capital initiatives. NewCorp, a local community development organization and Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI), developed the BuildNOLA Mobilization Fund in 2019, giving Black women access to capital specifically designed to be used by local entrepreneurs of color to participate in public infrastructure projects, create more jobs and grow the city’s economy. Using the BuildNOLA Mobilization Fund as its conduit, NewCorp has provided access to over $20 million in capital to eligible entrepreneurs since the Fund’s inception.”

Because the BuildNOLA program was designed with the community in mind, the program was able to hyper-target the real barriers Black women face—getting as targeted as ending payment delays that kept entrepreneurs from being able to take on new work. And the program has a ripple effect, too: The more successful contract awards fund recipients receive, the more capacity and scale they are able to build, with one entrepreneur tripling their revenue through accessing this line of credit.

When Black women succeed, it benefits us all. We cannot let broader efforts for economic advancement and equality be stopped in their tracks by activism devoted to keeping Black women down.

Through all of the attacks our communities face, it is crucial not to lose hope. Black women and our families deserve more than just what we need to survive, and corporate programs designed to support us can help us thrive.

Time and time again, we have seen how Black women are the tastemakers, creatives and leaders our society and world needs. Our voices are beyond valuable, and they threaten the status quo that so many banks on to live and thrive at our expense. We stand firm against attacks on resources meant to uplift us. We have a right to thrive and enjoy the prosperity we help create. We are committed to advocating for our rights and staying the course towards economic stability and independence.

Up next:

U.S. democracy is at a dangerous inflection point—from the demise of abortion rights, to a lack of pay equity and parental leave, to skyrocketing maternal mortality, and attacks on trans health. Left unchecked, these crises will lead to wider gaps in political participation and representation. For 50 years, Ms. has been forging feminist journalism—reporting, rebelling and truth-telling from the front-lines, championing the Equal Rights Amendment, and centering the stories of those most impacted. With all that’s at stake for equality, we are redoubling our commitment for the next 50 years. In turn, we need your help, Support Ms. today with a donation—any amount that is meaningful to you. For as little as $5 each month, you’ll receive the print magazine along with our e-newsletters, action alerts, and invitations to Ms. Studios events and podcasts. We are grateful for your loyalty and ferocity.

About and

Vaughn Randolph Fauria is an accomplished professional in community development and serves as the executive director and President at NewCorp, Inc.