Over the last decade, the beauty industry has been perceived as one of the most inclusive industries in the world. With diverse influencers across the globe and an influx of black-owned businesses over the last few years, it seemingly had diversity and inclusive expertly managed. But in the wake of hard conversations about race in society, a serious challenge was issued to the industry to show us the receipts!
Pull Up or Shut Up is a digital campaign that challenged beauty brands who have released a statement of public support for Black Lives Matter, to publicly release the number of black employees they have in their organizations at corporate level/leadership roles. Started by founder of UOMA Beauty, Sharon Chuter, this initiative is fighting for economic opportunities for black people. "To at this point, to still be absolving yourself from the role you have played and continue to play in the marginalized and oppression of black people, shows that a lot of these efforts are just PR stunts," Chuter says in her inaugural call to action video.
The call to action spread furiously, with beauty influencers like Jackie Aina and Nyma Tang echoing the challenge on their own platforms. While the initial call was for 72 hours post statements, brands are continuing to pull up. The big powerhouse ULTA reported 18% Black board members and 13% Black executive team leaders, while Sephora reported 45% people of color in corporate offices, with 6% being Black. L'Oreal, a self-proclaimed company for multicultural women, reported 7% in corporate positions and 8% at the executive level is black. Since L'Oreal owns juggernaut brands like Maybelline, Essie, Carol's Daughter and Kiehl's, any increase at these brands would make a sizable difference in the lives of many black people.
The cruelty-free brand ColourPop reported 3% black participation and acknowledged there's work to be done. ColourPop's rise to fame coincides with the rise of the influencer, including black influencers like Ellarie and Shayla. PUR is 30% black; Boxy Charm is 8%; and fan-favorite Supergoop! has 2 black people in leadership roles. Smaller brands like Sunday Riley reported 9.1% in management roles, with 20% of the top highest compensated people being Black.
As we can see, many brands profited from black culture without consciously investing in black lives. Without transparency, we cannot start an honest dialogue about the changes that need to happen in our society. It's imperative.
In 2019, only four Fortune 500 companies had a black chief executive, down from seven less than a decade ago. There are more than 1,800 Fortune 500 companies; that discrepancy creates a serious disparity between the black community and other communities. The black community spends $1.2 trillion a year, and that number was projected to $1.5 trillion by 2021, pre-COVID. Black hair care alone raked in an estimated $2.51 billion in 2018.
The black dollar is extremely powerful, yet the black community benefits very little from it. The black dollar is not being reinvested into the black community, but instead into systems that actively neglect and oppress the black community in various facets.
This is about more than representation. It's rooted in the overall mission to build generational wealth for black families. Race-based economic inequality is a persistent feature of the United States that is at odds with the national narrative regarding wealth and racial equality. White households earning more than their black counterparts remained largely constant or even widened between 1967 and 2015. Historical and present-day forms of racism have systematically disadvantaged black communities in their pursuit of economic opportunities.
The profit of black culture without black participation has to stop.
Roughly 8% of people employed in white collar professions are black, and only 3.2% of them are in executive or senior management roles. An active and ongoing push to diversify corporate boardrooms and leadership roles drastically change the landscape for black families. It goes beyond beauty and skincare. Currently, challenges have been issued to Fashion Nova and Nike without any comment from the brands.
Personally, I would like to see other industries follow suit. The fashion industry is extremely underrepresented and has been since its inception. To see the makeup of your favorite glossies and brands would facilitate very interesting conversations, the kind needed to change our world.
Keep up with what brands responded to the challenge and released their numbers by visiting the Pull Up For Change Instagram.
Featured image via Sharon Cuter/Instagram