Entrepreneurship has long been touted as one of the important aspects of America that allows everyone to have a chance to achieve the “American Dream”—upward mobility, independence, and the freedom to be one’s own boss. But who are these entrepreneurs who attempt to achieve this, and what are their experiences as business owners?
Most of the academic research on entrepreneurship focuses on the experiences of ethnic immigrants—typically Cuban, Chinese, and Korean men. In my new book Doing Business with Beauty: Black Women, Hair Salons, and the Racial Enclave Economy (Rowman & Littlefield, 2008), I shift the focus to consider the experiences of Black women entrepreneurs. In the book, I argue that the focus on ethnic men conflates ethnicity with race, ignores gender, and thus does not offer a way to understand the entrepreneurial experiences of racial minority women. In order to address this, I contend that we have to take processes of race and gender into consideration.
To this end, Doing Business with Beauty argues that systemic gendered racism is a significant and important factor shaping the business experiences of Black women. Focusing on Black women hair salon owners, I argue that systemic gendered racism shapes these women’s business decisions, interactions with customers and stylists, motivations for engaging in entrepreneurship, and other factors. I argue that systemic gendered racism produces business patterns among Black women that can be better described as “racial enclave economies.” These racial enclave economies reflect the realities of race and gender as systemic, intersecting factors, and create unique entrepreneurial experiences that are often overlooked by existing research and current discussions on entrepreneurship.
~ Adia Harvey Wingfield
Assistant Professor, Sociology
Georgia State University