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African American Women & Wealth: Triumphing Over Adversity
Dr Sheila Robinson. I have an author and the CEO founder and publisher of diversity woman media. I'm Jennifer Witter, the CEO and founder of the boiling group of public relations agency, and the public speaker and author I'm Stacey. Tis Dale on air financial journalist, author behavioral finance expert, and CEO of mind money media Inc. I am Tiffany are warrants. Senior VP chief diversity officer for Omni. I'm also the founder and president of ad com. This is secrets of wealthy women from the Wall Street Journal, helping women empower themselves financially. Now, Veronica dagger. Welcome to a special edition of secrets of wealthy. Women on this episode. We invited four African American female executives and entrepreneurs to share their views on money and success. Stacey when you speak to students. What are some of the myths you try to dispel about African American women and money all of them will tell you story. I was speaking with a group of young girls about black wealth. And I ask them. What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think about blacks and money, and they were saying things like not good with money debtors, even some said, financially, illiterate, not investors, and I said to them what if I told you that within ten years after being freed freed slaves amassed sixty million dollars in the Friedman's Bank. What if I told you the black households in the United States running two hundred thousand dollars more, the fastest growing income group? And I pointed out some of the challenges the blacks have had to overcome to build historical wealth, like redlining, predatory lending all sorts of things. And it was so interesting as they were hearing this their energy changed. I think the story of black wealth. In the United States is an incredible story of resilience. When you look at the wealth that we've created one, you know, virtually in dollars and buying power. And it's when you look at some of those challenges that we've had to face, but the stories not told that way. So I think the conversations need to change the in order to shift the mindset so that we can step into that wealth. So I talk a lot about our history. A lot about particularly black women entrepreneurs the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in the United States, and one of the reasons I'm here, and one of the reasons that I have these conversations as it's news to a lot of people. And you know, we tell our history in the same way. And we wonder why history repeats itself, you speak specifically about the impact of slavery on African Americans wealth today. Absolutely. I took my son to the legacy museum the summer in Montgomery, Alabama. And my son has had to live with me for all of his thirteen years. So he hears a lot about this. And where it's an incredible museum. It's an incredible experience. And we're looking at pictures and. We saw picture of Frederick Douglas and kudos to Hammy said. Mommy, how come more people don't talk about the fact that he was almost a millionaire. That's is so amazing to me. So the first person that really see the potential of the black economy was president Lincoln. So when he freed the slaves he realized, okay, these people have been sleeves. I have you know, they don't know much about money. So I have to give them somewhere to put it and somewhere to learn about it. So he created the Friedman's bang and within ten years of being slaves. These people amassed sixty million dollars in those days that would have been, you know, I think it was like over seven trillion dollars in today's economy. They built schools they build communities, they built hospitals. And when there was the first real big economic downturn. Which was when the railroads crashed, you know, that started affecting everyone's fortunes, but officers came in to manage the Friedman's Bank, and they literally took that money to build the treasury inex- building. Which is why when Jacob Lewis Treasury Secretary. He renamed it the Friedman spank, so. So I think looking at what those people were able to do within ten years after slavery. I would hope that it changes mindsets. And we're under so many socio economic disadvantages. But I would hope it makes people see what's possible. And how if we can shift into that? And tap into the resilience that we've shown we are on Konami, you know, tired of talking about being at the bottom of the pay gap. Yes, we have all those issues. But look what we've done and look where we are in. It's something to be proud of. There's a lot of talk of microaggressions. This can happen. When say a black woman who is CEO was assumed to be an assistant have you ever experienced any of these migrations, Jennifer, absolutely? And it is very jarring when it happens to a person, and I can tell you that one time I went to my client, and I was waiting to see him. And I was speaking to one of his associates, and it came out for whatever reasons I'm first generation American my family's Jamaican. And then she said. Unprompted. You must've learned how to speak proper English by watching TV and she felt that that was okay to say to me and the thing with Migro aggressions. It's basically a verbal attack. Whether it's intentional or unintentional on a minority or marginalized group and with us women when we're going into a room and all of obvious or women of color. We are not seeing as CEO's there's an implicit bias there that we must be in a support position and many times I've gone into meetings. And if I'm with a subordinate who is white they will look at her and think she is Jennifer and not me. So it's all these things that as a CEO a woman of color, and that can be a double minority that we have to go forward and be aware that when we enter Rome, we're going to have to fight harder shine brighter. Jump higher simply because the expectations were so low or that they're thinking that we're going to be there to take notes, it's never ending shoe. Have you dealt with any microaggressions something? One of the most surprising, and a fisa offensive things that happen to me as an entrepreneur as a CEO from someone that I actually hired to do my website, and they asked me for all my credentials photography worked with my team. And I received a call from them in two thousand sixteen I received a doctorate from university of Pennsylvania. And she called me and asked me was it a certificate. You know? And I was like surprise, you know, so just could not believe that in this day in time as the owner founder of this organization that she could make that assumption. Even when I told her what I had. So I too believe that historically we as African American women are climbed from the bottom is so much further. We have so much. That to to climb. And what I try to do is encourage women women like myself. They're trying to be entrepreneurs is to even though we have all of these things against us to try to mate. The only Cup color in the room to matter be green. And you know, it's so easy to say, I'm ADMA black woman. And the struggle is real I'm not blind to that. But what I try to do for myself personally is first of all always walk as I'm leader and anything after that, I happen to be a leader. A woman a later a woman, that's an African American woman and everything after that doesn't matter when I'm trying to business with my customers because the only thing I'm trying to deliver to them is quality service and a return on investment. And I want them to only see value and the color green. When they look at me, Tiffany or have you dealt with any of us. Yeah. I mean, I think being an officer in a company. Where they're seventy five thousand employees revenues around fourteen billion. I didn't wear it today. But usually I wear Unicor necklace. Because even when I first started I would walk down the halls, and I would even think that people would get whiplash because they're like did I see what I just saw. You know, there's not many senior VP's at my level and being a woman of color in particular, Brown woman. I want to specify that we come in all shades, but there's a particular sort of feeling that I get and I have being Browner woman in corporate America. I think what I faced. And there's there's definitely a cycle that happens when you're a woman of color and organization you come in. There's the honeymoon period. They're happier there. They celebrate you. It's almost like you come in on golden chariot. And then they take off the gold. They take off the wheels, and you're essentially left on the bench and on a daily basis and not my president company. But in terms of people that I've spoken to there's this repetitive injury on that comes with micro aggressions. It's really really simple stuff. But it has the impact of greater injury. Because you've done everything you're supposed to do. You've graduated from the best. Colleges you received. All your certifications doctorates, and you go into a room, and you're still seeing as someone who can't possibly be at that level. And I say, you know, my superpower has come to be empathy of had to be more empathetic is a great friend of mine said keep this question mind when you are in a situation where you face bias or you face microaggressions. Sometimes it's a really great icebreaker and question, I often asked to many of the that I come across your senior level white male leadership into some extent, white female leadership is, you know, when did you lose your racial innocence? You know, for me, I can remember specifically how the air smelled when I realized that I was a black woman. And it was I was very young. Usually the answer that we get back from, you know, white allies, they see other. They see someone else lose their racial innocence. You know, I saw Tommy get hit on the basketball court because he was black. But typically when white people realise or think about the racial when they lost their racial innocence. It's when they realized their privilege, and so I think if we're gonna come together and have a better solution corporate. Erica where women of color can be successful be promoted without facing this injury. Or this questioning of their abilities is kind of understanding and being pathetic about your biases. I'm so that women of color can thrive in these environments and give to the innovation economy. Like you hired them to do. Honey, you not let it get in your head. When some people are doubting you or doing these microaggressions, and and assuming that you're not who you are for me. It was transcendence, and it was a very spiritual journey because I grew up in an environment of racial isolation from day one. And it's interesting as I've grown up. There's a big difference between racism and solutions and people don't experience a difference. I was always the only black in school. I was a figure skater I did horseshoe jumping I you know, parents worked hard to send me to private school. The just the way, you know, the human brain works. You know, you just do what you have to do to. Be accepted and be part of those things. So I kind of carried that attitude into life and into my career. And then when I started as a journalist, I remember the first TV show, I was you know, being looked at to anchor, and I'd been prenup producer night is the most qualified person for the show, and then a executive producer looked at me. He's like, you're definitely the smartest person in the room. You're the best person on camera. But you just simply don't look like a business news journalist, and I remember being very defiant saying you're going to have to change your definition of what a business journalist looked like. But it turned out I realize through my career, you know, working on network television. That was never a battle. I was going to win. But it was one I was going to transcend because that experience came to define my work and wouldn't be me without going through that. And my response to all of it. And I've had you know, just a very blessed career, I or tier Wall Street Journal television. I've worked at CBS worked at CNN PBS today show all the big networks, but where that sent me. Me is in challenge. Preneurs ship starting my own media company. And I think I'm sure as our conversation of a lot of black women do so it's not had to you know, there's something deeper and all of us than all this stuff. There's a deeper place, and I'm grateful for every experience that I've had because that's where it's put me how to where to go, and that's where transformation and resilience occur in the you're not defined by all that nonsense. Another stress is the pay gap. So African American women earn about sixty one percent of what white men earn going on there. Stacey everything there's, you know, the pay gap and one of the interesting things about what you just said is if you ask the average person on the street, what's the pay gap between men and women they say seventy seven cents and for as you mentioned for black women. It's a lot lower than that. And I think, you know, it's very exciting time for women right now, we're in a very woke phase. And I think we have the opportunity to look at. What I called diversity within diversity? Not all women are the same. Not all women experience. You know, the workplace the same the pay gap the same. And I think, you know, black women have to understand white women experiences differently. White women have to understand Hispanic women experience this differently. And the only way that we can do that is to hear each other's voices. And hear each other stories, I love watching various news programs when there's panels about the pay gap in it's all white people talking about this, and you know, awareness, and again, understanding, you know, this diversity within diversity. And that, you know, we're all not experiencing things the same as I hope the next wave feminism because I know a lot of black women and women of color who felt alienated by the feminist movement. And kind of you know, it's been co-opted into kind of a white woman's middle class issue. And it's everywhere, we when we talk about the pay gap. We think of corporate America, there's a huge wage, gap and entrepreneurship there's. Something you, and I have spoken about recently called the late payment gap. Where one of the biggest challenges that entre preneurs faces getting paid on time. And it's not spoken about very much and women get paid thirty six thirty six percent of their payments are late payments and for black women. You know, those numbers are even worse. And you know, what are we going to do about that because that financial insecurity affects every part of your life. You're not getting paid on time. You're not paying your bills on time. You're affects your ability to have a business. We are the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs. But if you look at the revenues and the businesses are owned by black women, they don't, you know, they're mostly micro-businesses getting paid laid my company is fifteen years old, and we will always paid on time up until two thousand eight with the great recession and ever since. Then even though we're out of the recession. I am still getting paid late and I had to institute tools because as one accountant. Said to me, you're not their Bank. You're giving them an interest free loan. And so what I do is. I have them pay in advance. So in all of my contracts, I write in if I have to go into collection to to get my money back, and I win not only will you pay me, you're going to pay my attorney's fees because we can't be nice. Nice nice. We need our money, and when they withhold the money, and we're giving them the service. It is like another insult to us. I wanna talk a little bit more about equal pay for a second. What advice? Do you have for women who want to ask for equal pay, but are afraid of being seen as too aggressive, Tiffany if technology levels the playing field so does having legal representation, I was super super young when I transitioned from working for a network where oversaw diversity for three agencies to one I wear oversaw for seventeen hundred. And I was frightened that I had all the feelings that you feel when you level up literally and the. The one thing that equal the playing field at least for me because I knew that. I was at a stage where I was going to be emotional talking about pay was getting an employment lawyer. And so I had a conversation with her I discussed the terms what I was looking for which included, but wasn't limited to hey, I'm running a not for profit. And I still want to take this job. But I also have responsibilities over here, and she was able to sort of cut the emotion out of it and negotiate on my behalf asking for things that I would dream about and put on vision boards. I think we don't share these tools that most people have at their disposal. We don't talk to each other. And so any young person who I know is leveling up in their career. I give them certain types of advice, particularly one in which if you if you feel that you can't ask for what you want. And this is real I think we can give advice about how to be, you know, fix your posture, and and be assertive in these conversations. But sometimes it does require representation in securing that representation this was ten years ago. I was able to ask for what I want and knowing what I wanted not only for myself. But my family because when I walk into these situations, whether it be for employment or even looking at sponsorship for the color awards went a have conversations, I'm thinking about my family. I'm thinking about my employees. I'm thinking about the young people that this endeavor is gonna support which does kind of serve as an armor for me when I'm in the conversations. But when I know I have to level up. I get the help that I need and that's another. I don't know if it's a myth. But I do think that sometimes we take on too much. We don't ask for help. So if it's a conversation, that's more complicated. If you are an officer, you're in the senior ranks, I highly recommend making sure that you have the right representation along with you because those conversations can sometimes be hard. So I just went Addis stick to what she said that women should keep in their mind. Harvard found that seven percent of women graduated in grad school, negotiate their first salary. Fifty seven percent of men do and that ends up costing five hundred thousand dollars by the time. You're sixty years old so women need to know this going into Nagoya. Sheesh. And just to add we all talk about, you know, women don't negotiate in. I think that also plays into a narrative as women as weak. We need to negotiate we need to know those statistics. But also the way men and women see money is different men are return oriented they've been conditioned since the beginning of time to provide and protect. So they're looking for the number women are their brains literally valued them by how they nurture. So it's that number's not as important to them. And that's just different. And that also needs to change we have to start looking stop looking at women's financial behavior as week. It's different women perform better women's investments way out before men because they're in it for long term goal oriented. They're not trading back and forth. They're not getting those trading fees to women have to own their differences. We have the economic control most of the wealth in the country step into it and own what we've done coming up our panel discusses the racial gender and social biases. They face. Or listening to secrets of wealthy women from the Wall Street Journal. Sheila would you elaborate on why more black women are starting their own businesses? We have to create our own cease. We you know, we have to create our own careers. Be Bo courageous take our seats at the table there. You know is one of the four ways to reach the C suite. I know personally I worked for an amazing organization for fourteen years DuPont in head a just an incredible career director and marketing communications and wants my division was sold. And I went out trying to get another job to no avail, also from the south, not only a woman woman of color. I am a woman from the south which also works against me believe it or not. And so no one wanted to hire me in that area for what I was being paid for at a corporation like DuPont. And I remember one a head this vision for magazine fifteen years ago. So I I just thought that resources such as providing a dissolution resources to help women in their career was so valuable, and I recall speaking to one of my attorney friends and telling her that I did not know why I was not getting a job or giving opportunity. I had gotten received coaching had done everything that you should do. And she told me that she suggested that I explore the vision, I have for starting a magazine and to Stacy's point, my immediate reaction was I don't have money to start a magazine I need a job. And she said to me, you know, that's the reason why women in particular black women never move on their vision, and their ideas and things that could could provide them success in wealth. And she said when a man has an idea the last thing. He thinks about is where he's going to get the money from in. So she that conviction, and you know, I just immediately started exploring this vision and fast fifteen years later, you know, mo- organising thriving in so to answer your question at think that some of us do it because we're passionate about it. Some of us just fall into it. Because I never wanted to start my own business in, you know, many of us. We don't have a choice we have to find a way to create well to take your our families. And I just think that there are diversity programs their networking programs that everyone has been talking about because we as women have so much power when we can support coach mentor provide education because there is nothing absolutely nothing that one can achieve if they have the right education and the passion to go after it. What advice? Do you have her women? No who. Want to have their own business? But are just having trouble getting funding for it. Well, you know, there's more a lot more out there than I than without their when I did started my business. I started with the family loan in built on my own. But there are a lot of organizations out there such as the gentleman that just bought essence he's looking for women organizations to invest them. I know of a venture capital fund spirit spearheaded by African American women. I just encourage them to be just to do all the research. They can be diligent with that. Because you know, a lot of things we are. So fearful of been rejection women in particular myself, you know, once have the fear of rejection, and when I started my business fifteen years ago, I realized that the only thing was stopping me was. Fear two letters no in and you cannot be fearful you have to be courageous. You have to put that business capital. And don't take these things personal and go out there and buy what you need to make things happen because there are just so many more resources, tools and end bencher capital. That is available. Even though I I know what this Satistics say about women, but the bottom line is if you have a product that will sale if you have something that's marketable. I don't know anybody out here that does not want to make money, and you get into the hands of the right person. There's an opportunity for you to be successful. Some studies show that African Americans rely more on friends and family for money advice than they do on financial advisers. Would you agree with that? Stacey yes. The black community is very distrustful of the financial service. Industry when you again, we talked about the Friedman's Bank earlier, we had you know, redlining we had predatory lending, and there's just a lot of mistrust there. So I think, you know, women in general are not as comfortable with financial advisers, and particularly and the black community, but I think again just kind of changing the narrative on this a bit Nielsen research found that blacks read financial publications twenty six more than twenty six percent more than any other group. So I think we have to look at the fact that it is the financial financial industry that can help us build wealth. And you're starting to see shifts in that we're starting to see more blacks turn to the stock market. Whereas we've been conditioned from day one that real estate is the way to build wealth. And so I think this is going to, you know, change generational. But again to me, you know, black wealth is this like a miracle when you consider the fact that. For some, you know, three just three or four generations ago, we were slaves, but you have to also look at always first second generation of wealth are very cautious with their money. So again, changing the narrative, let's not just look at it as a black problem. It's you know, it's a, you know, feeling different sense of responsibility to preserve wealth to maintain. Well, blacks do prudential financial found this. They do support friends and family at a much higher rate than any other ethnic group. And that's because you know, very has in their family someone who's, you know, living the socioeconomic disadvantages, but I think as our community builds wealth, and as we so many of us got burned in the housing market crash of you know, corner a million blacks lease lost their homes. We are turning more to the financial markets in opening up more to the idea of financial services. And I think we're, you know, we'll see that as a generational shift in education is key. Yeah. Is key. Financial literacy, Tiffany, what's one step women can take to help their career today. I'm thinking about my own experience. And when I had the opportunity to level up, you know, one of the things it formulas that I use when I think about myself in corporate America, and hopefully it'll be helpful to anyone who hears. This is I think about you know, things in four steps. So you know, there I think about the first thing which is trauma. And I know everyone's thinking, oh, my God is this like, you know, emergency room trauma. No, it's could be good about having a child getting a new job moving into a new house is some form of trauma. The next step. I take is. I think about my world as it was. And and what it really is. And just steeping myself in the present and the moment and understanding what do I need to go forward? Typically what happens after that? At least for me. There's a bit of a valley. There's a bit of a time where I get all my lessons that I learned everything. An actually that's the most instructive time for me. It could be ten minutes to five years, particularly when I had a trauma, which was actually a starter marriage. I took that time to be in the valley for a little bit of work on myself as well. And so, you know, taking these three steps has really been helpful. And then the final one for me is usually the breakthrough. And so when I come out of the valley, I've learned everything that I've learned the breakthrough for me, and what has happened in. This has happened. Every time was leveling up and getting this this post at Omni com group are launching the add color awards with very little money and very little help in the sense of volunteers. But having people who are really committed to the mission. So my advice to women, particularly when you know that you're going to face trials and tribulations because I'm a realist is think about those four steps, and it's it's really been helpful to me. And hopefully, it'll be helped helpful to those who listen, Jennifer, what's one way black women can promote themselves affectively. I would say network. The strongest thing that you can do for yourself is to go out there and build a network and one of the things I say is that you should not be creating a network when you need it. You should be creating network when you don't need it. Because the strongest thing that we women can do is to support ourselves. And there are a lot of opportunities out there that don't go out into the mainstream. But you hear about it through your connections, and for myself with my business, I have gotten so much in terms of professional relationships personal relationships and for the boiling group itself business through my network. But the thing about it is is that for women and for anybody in gauged in networking. You have to understand that. It's not all about you. You have to be able to give in order to eventually get back. Back. And so when you're going out, there know what you are doing know what you want, but go out there offensively and know that you have to in return to get what you're aiming at your goal. You're going to have to give and to consistently network with individuals that you meet follow up stay in front of them. Because in the long term. It is absolutely going to help you when you're at your peak. And when you go down into that valley because we all no matter how successful you are. There will be valley one day, and your network will be there to help you crime that mountain backup to the peak. Time now for your secrets. Dr Sheila Robinson, and my money secret is I'd pay tithes on my business in my church. I'm Jennifer winter. And my money secret is to live beneath your means and to budget wisely. I'm stacey. Tis Dale and my money secret. Don't worry about money, your financial fortunes are going to change for all sorts of reasons. Life happens. Most important remember the sell fourth has got nothing to do with NetWorth. I'm Tiffany are Warren and my money secret is to invest in a good idea an innovation economy. It's all about the creative economy, so invest integrate idea. Be sure to check out more episodes of secrets of wealthy women on apple podcast, Google, podcasts or your favorite podcast provider. This episode was produced by Tanya boost us on Veronica dagger. Thanks for listening. What's your secret? Let us know right podcasts at Dow Jones dot com or on Twitter use hashtag secrets of wealthy women.
WSJ Secrets of Wealthy Women