Why Blacks Are Underrepresented In These Top 10 Industries

In almost every industry, African Americans have the highest consumer rating, yet the lowest ownership stake. The following are the top 10 industries where African Americans show the lowest number of ownership and high-level management.

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1. Finance & Investment

When attending a financial advisor’s conference, you are likely to see only a handful of African American faces. The same is true for many wealth management firms. Though the statistics that exist are bleak, the U. S. Census Bureau reports that minorities (including Hispanic and Asian) hold only 8% of financial employee positions. “In a 2011 report on workforce diversity, SIFMA surveyed 18 large financial services firms and found that 8% of brokers or financial advisors at those firms were “people of color.” Of all firms owned by African-Americans, finance and insurance businesses account for just 2.2%, according to the most recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Commerce.”

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2. Digital Tech Industries & Gaming

Black entrepreneurs are facing major roadblocks in their attempt to elevate beyond a consumer. Only about one percent of entrepreneurs who received venture capital in the first half of last year are Black, according to a study by research firm CB Insights. While several tech companies report that they don’t have a qualified pool of applicants, a U.S. Today study proves that “top universities graduate black and Hispanic computer science and computer engineering students at twice the rate that leading technology companies hire them.”

For those working within the multi-billion dollar industry of game developing, the rewards are great. Programmers can earn around $85,000 per year or more. For potential employees there are a wide range of well-paid jobs to consider, such as design, production, programming, audio and business. Studies indicate Blacks, Hispanics and those in lower socioeconomic groups play, spend more time, and buy more video games than other groups, yet are misrepresented at large shows and conferences. Many point to institutional bias and inequality of opportunity in the gaming and tech industries as studies show there is a lack of African Americans working in Silicon Valley, which is home to many tech companies.


3. Fast Food Restaurants

Miriam Brewer, director of education and diversity for the International Franchise Association in Washington, D.C., says brands with diverse leadership and franchisees will be more innovative. “When you surround yourself with individuals that come from diverse backgrounds, you get the best of everything,” she says. Brewer says some franchises put their diversity efforts on hold when the economy took a dive.“They wanted to make sure [their existing franchisees] could stay afloat,” she says.

Only 13.5% of restaurants are owned by African Americans. The need for financing has become a large hurdle for African Americans who desire to franchise fast food restaurants as they “are in need of financing more than other folks,” says Rob Bond, president of Oakland, California–based World Franchising Network. Another obstacle facing Minorities and African Americans is that many of the “A sites” have already been taken, which leaves only locations that may not be as profitable as those first colonized. Companies with franchise opportunities can help by offering fair and beneficial loan processes. They would also do well to understand that “store operators from within those communities know better how to successfully operate those businesses, find talent, and understand cultural norms.”

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4. Leisure

David Anokye has worked in travel since 2000, forming Klassique Travels in 2007. At travel shows, the dark-complexioned Anokye doesn’t see many people who look like him. Of the well over 600 Convention and Visitors Bureaus (CVB) across the country, less than 10 have an African-American as a president/CEO. Black hotel ownership stands at 500, though most are owned by business magnate Robert Johnson’s RLJ Companies. By contrast, Asian American Hotel Owners Association owns upward of 40 percent of all hotels in the United States. The most recent available census figures (2007) put African-American travel agent ownership at just 2%. Also, today, only 11 of nearly 500 convention and visitors bureaus are led by African-Americans.

In December of 2014, The White House invited 100 travel bloggers, writers, and online media creators to participate in a symposium on youth travel, diversity, and the importance of studying abroad. After a quick glance, it became obvious that there was an immense lack of minority representation at this event. While studies show that there are more Africans Americans traveling than ever before, there is still a large absence of color in mainstream travel blogging and media.

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5. Health Care

Currently, minorities make up 47% of the U.S. population (blacks at 17%), but only 10% of the health care force. The physician workforce is a far way from reflecting the diversity of the general population. While 1 in 8 Americans is African American, only 1 in 15 doctors identify as such. Research has shown that minority doctors are more likely to work with underserved and indigent populations. These are the same populations who bear disproportionate rates of disease and who have the most limited access to care.

As our nation moves towards greater diversity, it is the responsibility of the medical professions to ensure that quality health care can be administered with respect for all our cultural differences. Attempts have been made to address the need for more blacks in health care through mentoring programs and education assistance, but the field is still wide open for our greater – and greatly desired – participation.

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6. Teaching

African-American men are underrepresented in teaching at an alarming rate, making up only two percent of all educators. “According to recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics, nearly 82 percent of public school teachers in school year 2011-12 were white. When black men first enter the classroom, there is a high likelihood that they may be only one of maybe two or three black males on the staff, even in some predominantly black schools and districts.” Advocates such as Spike Lee believe the only solution for our male youth in peril is for more black men to lead them in the class room. Many states agree, which has led to recruitment efforts targeted specifically at African-American men.

Donald G. Nicolas, a male educator, states that “The only abundance of black men comes in the form of custodians, food-service employees, and transportation workers. In addition, in conversations with colleagues, it is widely understood that if black men are educators, they more often than not are physical education teachers or a coach in some capacity.”

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7. Law

In 2005, the numbers of black students enrolling in law school reached a record low, according to Black Enterprise. It was found that blacks consistently failed to reach the most lucrative levels of the profession. Sadly, not much has changed in recent years. Efforts are now being made to lower the rate of minorities that leave law firms before they can become partners, but the field is wide open for greater African-American participation.

Recruitment at law schools of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, diversity scholarship programs, and many scholars have also proposed institutional reforms to address the law firm practices that disadvantage women and minorities. However, diversity has been elusive.

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8. College Athletics

African-Americans are woefully underrepresented in college athletics on all levels, ranging from coaching to program directorships. Blacks within the field are often regulated to areas that do not feed into higher positions, and are judged more harshly than their white counterparts. Diversity in college athletics is highly monitored, which has led to steady improvement within the profession. The recognition that more black hiring is essential means that blacks have a greater ability than ever to diversify the field.

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9. Advertising

Civil rights and ad industry leaders have called out the advertising industry for being almost 40% more discriminatory than the general job marketplace. Tragically, the situation is worse today than it was 30 years ago. The lack of black representation is so stark, it would take the hiring of over 7,000 African-American executives to achieve an acceptable level of diversity. Blacks interested in advertising would face a steep climb, but the numbers show this industry sorely needs us.

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10. Beer & Alcohol

The Brewers Association, the craft industry’s leading trade group, doesn’t keep records on the racial breakdown of its membership; nor does the American Homebrewers Association, its DIY-focused branch. In efforts to find the answer to the question “Why aren’t black people in craft beer industry”, Dave Infante stumbled upon a few discoveries.

A recent Nielsen study commissioned by the Brewers Association found that while black drinkers compose 11.2% of the US population, they consume only 3.7% of the country’s craft beer. Compare that with the 80% of craft beer guzzled by whites. While some macros and the malt liquor category — which has an uncomfortable but profitable history capitalizing on the low-income dollar — have appealed directly to black drinkers, craft brewers for the most part have not. He also discovered that there is an ugly history of racism in beer.

The question that needs answering at this point is,

“Why? Why is there such a mass underrepresentation in these industries?”

“At one time there were as many as 12 black CEOs in the Fortune 500, according to Ronald C. Parker, CEO of the Executive Leadership Council, an organization representing top black executives in the Fortune 500. Why the decline in recent years? Part of it has to do with the push toward globalization, Parker told The Huffington Post: As America’s top companies placed more value on leaders with international experience, they focused less on women and minorities.” Though studies show that diversity is good for business, leaders are often subconsciously more comfortable working with people like themselves. In addition, some companies committed to diversity haven’t quite figured out how to effectively recruit, cultivate and retain women and minority talent.

Former McDonald’s CEO, Don  Thompson will step aside from the CEO position to make room for McDonald’s Chief Brand Officer, Steve Easterbrook, who is a white man. According to Cook and Glass, two women professors at Utah State University, it’s not unusual for a company to swiftly appoint a white male leader to soothe shareholders once signs of trouble emerge — they call it “the savior effect.”

Many questions still remain. Are we misrepresented because we have no interest? Are we simply overlooked during the hiring process? Are we less likely to have opportunities that lead us into the high-level positions and ownership opportunities? These questions have echoed across our nation over time and there are many answers. The reality is, African Americans are still very misrepresented in our nation’s top industries and there is much work to be done by all parties in order to rectify this disparity.