"At present, our country needs women's idealism and determination, perhaps more in politics than anywhere else." -Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm

By the Numbers

Despite demonstrating a growing electoral, economic, and online imprint, America’s 23 million Black women have not adequately harnessed their political power to overcome gaps in elected leadership.

Economic Power: Black women move billions of dollars every year; annual spending is estimated at $565 billion.  Imagine an America where just a tiny percentage of this economic might is shifted towards political engagement.

Voting Power:  Black women are a critical voting bloc and flexed their growing power by turning out at the highest percentages in both the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, higher than any other group.[i]  Black women voted overwhelmingly for President Barack Obama, causing many to credit Black women for his success.   Imagine an America where Black women voted at these rates in every election. Not only could they elect a more representative democracy, but also advance progressive policies at all levels.

Online Power:  Black women are one of the largest demographics using social media.  According to the Nielsen and Essence 2014 African American Consumer Report, Black women are two times more likely to spend more than three hours on social networking sites in an average day than the general market.  Imagine an America where Black women’s online engagement is harnessed to spark and shape the national debate on key issues and campaigns.

Black women represent a major political constituency, consumer base, and volunteer base.  Yet, they have largely been left out of important debates related to civil rights, economic justice, and reproductive justice.

Black Women in the United States

According to the 2010 Census 

  • Black women comprise 52.2% of the 43 million Blacks living in United States and represent 12% of the female population. 
  • One out of three Black households (29%) is headed by a single woman. 
  • In 2010, Black women constituted 6% of the labor force (nearly 10 million).[ii] 
  • Between 2008 and 2009, Black women received twice as many bachelor degrees as their male counterparts (6% vs. 3).[iii]  

Black Women’s Economic Power 

  • In 2009, 85 cents on every dollar spent by Blacks was spent at the influence of Black women.[iv] 
  • According to the Center for Women’s Business Research, Black women started business at three to five times the rate of all other business owners between 2006 and 2009. 
  • Black women’s spending power is estimated at over $565 billion.[v] 

Black Women’s Leadership Gap – Elected Office

According to the Center for American Women and Politics[vi]

  • Of the 100 members of the U.S. Senate, none are Black women. 
  • Of the 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, 18 are Black women. In addition, two Black women non-voting delegates serve in Congress, representing the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. 
  • Of the 76 women serving in a statewide elected office, three are Black. 
  • Of the 1,815 women serving nationwide as state legislators, 259 are Black. 
  • Of the 100 largest U.S. cities, four are Black.  

Black Women’s Leadership Gap – Corporate Boards 

  • According to the Alliance Board for Diversity, Black women hold 2.2% of seats on Fortune 500 corporate boards.

Black Women’s Wealth Gap 

  • Black women earned 60 cents for every dollar earned by a white man.[vii] 
  • According to the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, the median wealth of single Black women is $100 compared to $41,000 for single white women. [viii] 
  • Black women suffer disproportionately from asset poverty with only 33% owning homes and 23% owning stock.[x]

Black Women’s Health Disparities 

  • Black women are 21 times more likely to die from HIV/AIDS than white women.[xiii]  
  • Black women represent the second highest rates of cervical cancer and are more likely to die from it than any other group.[xiv]

[i] Lopez, Mark Hugo, and Paul Taylor. "Dissecting the 2008 Electorate: Most Diverse in U.S. History." Pew Research Center Publications. Pew Research Center, 30 Apr. 2009. Web. 18 Oct. 2012. <http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1209/racial-ethnic-voters-presidential-election>;

[ii] Bureau of Labor Statistics, unpublished tabulations from the 2010 Current Population Survey,“Employment Status of the Civilian Noninstitutional Population by Detailed Age, Sex, and Race,” Annual Averages 2010 (2011).

[iii] "Bachelor's Degrees Conferred by Degree-Granting Institutions, by Sex, Race/Ethnicity, and Field of Study: 2008-09." Nces.ed.gov. National Center for Education Statistics, Sept. 2010. Web. 30 Oct. 2012. <http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d10/tables/dt10_297.asp>;.

[iv] Humphreys, Jeffrey M. The Multicultural Economy 2010. N.p.: Selig Center for Economic Growth, n.d. Print.

[vi] Data from the Center for American Women and Politics, Eagleton Institute for Politics, Rutgers University.

[vii] National Women’s Law Center, http://www.nwlc.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/equal_pay_for_afam_women_2.pdf

[viii] National Women’s Law Center, Women’s Stake.

[ix] Ronalds-Hannon, Eliza. "Black Women Lost More Jobs During Recovery." Crainsnewyork.com. Crain's New York Business, 16 Aug. 2011. Web. 20 Oct. 2012. <http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20110816/FREE/110819924>;.

[x] Peterson, Latoya. "Closing the Racial Wealth Gap." Theroot.com. The Root, 15 Mar. 2010. Web. 30 Oct. 2012. <http://www.theroot.com/views/closing-racial-wealth-gap>;.

[xi] Hegewisch, Ariane, Claudia Williams, and Amber Henderson. The Gender Wage Gap: 2010 (Updated April 2011). Rep. N.p.: Institute for Women's Policy Research, 2011. Print.

[xii] Collins, Francis S., and John Ruffin. NIH Health Disparities Strategic Plan and Budget. Rep. National Institutes of Health, n.d. Web. 9 Oct. 2012. <http://www.nimhd.nih.gov/about_ncmhd/NIH%20Health%20Disparities%20Strategic%20Plan%20and%20Budget%202009-2013.pdf>;.

[xiii] "Minority Women's Health: HIV/AIDS." Womenshealth.gov. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health, n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2012. <http://www.womenshealth.gov/minority-health/african-americans/hiv-aids.cfm>;.

[xiv] "Cervical Cancer Rates by Race and Ethnicity." Cdc.gov. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 02 May 2012. Web. 30 Oct. 2012. <http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/cervical/statistics/race.htm>;.