BLACK GIRL MAGIC: Will Black Women Lead Us to the Financial Promised Land?

Leadership can be a very lonely place and a very lonely experience, and many times women are thrust into leadership situations that require them to go beyond the unfair stereotype women typically get about being soft or unable to make tough decisions. The leadership characteristics of women are unquestionably strong, and as it relates to business and finance in the United States, Black women are exhibiting even stronger leadership skills.

According to a new Nielsen report entitled, African-American Women: Our Science, Her Magic, the consumer preferences and brand affinities of Black women are making a huge mark across the country, and is hugely responsible for driving the overall total Black spending power toward a record $1.5 trillion by 2021.

Nielsen is a leading provider of insights into what consumers watch and buy, including the findings from this study that identified the spending and media habits of Black women.

Despite historically high unemployment rates, African Americans have shown resiliency in their ability to persevere as consumers, with Black women leading the way. Many retailers and Fortune 500 companies have even developed African American advertising teams and have also dedicated significant amounts of resources towards tapping into the steadily increasing buying power of Black consumers, and especially to target Black women. These major institutions and corporate juggernauts have the resources and totally understand the importance of advertising to Black women, which is why they are moving in the direction of advertising and marketing to Black women in newspapers, online and other media outlets where Black women can be found.

In Nielsen’s new Diverse Intelligence Series report, it paints a portrait of Black women as trendsetters, brand loyalists and early adopters who care about projecting a positive self-image. They are playing an increasingly vital role in how all women see themselves and influencing mainstream culture across a number of areas, including fashion, beauty, television and music.

“Black women have strong life-affirming values that spill over into everything they do. The celebration of their power and beauty is reflected in what they buy, watch and listen to, and people outside their communities find it inspiring,” says Cheryl Grace, Senior Vice President of U.S. Strategic Community Alliances and Consumer Engagement, Nielsen. “Understanding how Black women’s values affect their buying decisions has long been a marketing necessity. Now, marketers must also recognize the intercultural influence of Black women on the general market as an increasingly vital part of how all women see themselves, their families and the rest of the world.”

In looking at other key information from the report, we find that Black women have an independent mindset which has contributed to their growing confidence, self-awareness and rising income. Black women are not only redefining what it means to be a woman for themselves, but are at the vanguard of changing gender roles and unlimited possibilities for American women of all ages and races.

  • 64% of Black women agree their goal is to make it to the top of their profession (95% higher than non-Hispanic White women).
  • 58% agree that they don’t mind giving up their personal time for work (20% higher than non-Hispanic White women).
  • 14% of Black women have annual incomes of $50,000 or higher (up from 9% in 2005).
  • Ages 35–49 have the highest income within the Black female cohort.
  • For Black millennial women (18–34), 81% have never been married, up from 71% in 2005.
  • With an average household size of 2.47, 29% of total Black American households contain a married couple.

Black women have truly embraced social media and technology. According to the Nielsen report, Black women have also embraced the social media movement #BlackGirlMagic, which is a popular phrase used to described a myriad of motivated Black women who come together to lift each other up and shine the light on the success stories and accomplishments of Black women throughout the entire country. Black women use social media and technology more than any other demographic group, and have used social media as a means to make a difference. Whether buying cars, jewelry, smartphones or beauty products, the advice, referrals and feedback they receive from other Black women on social media and online plays an important role in the purchases they make.

  • 43% of Black women say they like to share their opinions about products and services by posting reviews and ratings online.
  • 47% agree that people often come to them for advice before making a purchase.
  • Black Women over-index by 29% for spending 3–4 hours each day on social networking sites and by 86% for spending 5 or more hours each day on social networking sites.

Other data shows that projecting a positive image is a sign of Black women’s aspirations and growing empowerment.

  • 82% of Black women agree it is important to be well-groomed.
  • 74% of Black women agree that they eat right.
  • 68% of Black women agree they are content with their appearance.
  • 60% of Black women agree they buy natural products because they are concerned about the environment.
  • 63% buy natural, citing concerns about their health and that of their family.
  • 46% of Black women agree they often use natural or organic beauty products.
  • 68% of Black women agree they are content with their self-image.

Young, independent and 24.3 million strong, Black women comprise 14 percent of all U.S. women and 52 percent of all African Americans in the country. Black women, who are relatively young with an average age of 35, have enjoyed steady growth in population, incomes and educational attainment, with 64 percent of Black women enrolling in college right out of high school and 23 percent over the age of 25 earning a Bachelor’s degree or higher.

Black women are truly leading the way as some of the most powerful consumers in this country, but they also have the potential to be the trendsetters needed in our nation to help move the Black community in the right direction, because many Black women are also business owners.

According to the Nielsen report, it states that the number of businesses that have a Black woman as the majority owner grew by 67 percent between 2007 and 2012, which was more than all women combined. According to the latest U.S. Census figures, Black women have majority ownership in more than 1.5 million businesses in the country, totaling over $42 billion in sales.

Although there have been many attempts made, the Black community has been unable to consistently replicate the economic strength and fortitude exhibited during the times of Black Wall Street, but that could all change if Black women use their collective financial strength and vision to make it happen – not just as consumers but as business owners.

Black women, in many cases, are similar to superheroes. Even in their most challenging moments and lowest times, they are always able to overcome, prevail and save the day.

It is time for Black women to use their power to help save the day by rebuilding the economic wall African Americans once had, so that Blacks will no longer have to depend on the government or social programs to generate wealth and strengthen the Black community.

That is a lot of responsibility, but if any group of people can make it happen, it appears that Black women can use their special “Black Girl Magic” to get it done.