Now Reading
Double Edge Sword: The Reality of Being a Woman of Color Consultant

Double Edge Sword: The Reality of Being a Woman of Color Consultant

A federal appeals court recently blocked Fearless Fund’s grant program from awarding funding to Black-women-run businesses. What this decision bodes for the future should terrify us all.  Edward Blum, a former stockbroker who launched a career as an anti-affirmative action activist after he lost a 1992 Texas congressional race, is targeting the Fearless Fund after a decades-long run of focusing on higher education in cases that led to the banning of using race in college admissions. 

Afrotech reported, “After being accused of practicing unlawful racial discrimination, the founders of the Fearless Fund continue to stand firm on why they launched the firm in the first place.  “We had one clear vision in mind,” said Fearless Fund President and Chief Executive Officer Arian Simone, “That was to change the game for women of color entrepreneurs. Our rationale was simple. These women are the most founded yet the least funded. They’re starting businesses at a much higher rate than any other demographic. Yet, they lack access to capital, access to resources, access to TV networks, and the education needed to scale their businesses.”

The unfortunate irony of being treated like a problem while being asked to provide a solution is not new to Black women or any woman of color. The consulting industry experienced a surge of women of color starting more firms than ever, and they are a critical part of industry and societal transformation. We must ensure women of color consultants have an equitable and respectful experience that fully honors their worth.

As a Black woman who owns an HR consultancy rooted in racial equity, I am often called to advise organizations as they navigate complex issues. This requires a deep level of expertise as well as mental and interpersonal dexterity.  I love it when a client values my worth and knowledge in all aspects of the engagement, from pay to recommendations provided to them. Though this is ideal, I have had potential clients challenge my rates despite knowing they pay white-led consulting firms more than that for similar projects. I have also presented ideas during the proposal process, which were used when they selected another consultant for a project. Unfortunately, I am not alone.

Asheya Warren, FSMPS, CPSM, leads PRAXIS Strategic Consulting.  Asheya shares that “firms consider engaging us because PRAXIS provides unique value through the combination of niche industry acumen, approach, and cultural lens. Yet, upon contract negotiation, budgets, scope, and operational mechanics often become hurdles to starting the work.”

Following the international reckoning with racism in 2020, organizations rightfully invested in EDI (Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion) leaders, programs, and strategies within all types of organizations and industries over the past three years. That created more opportunities for women of color consultant’s unique perspectives, and this will only continue even in the face of retrenchment and lethargy we see in corporate EDI efforts. 

While some organizations did the extra work to integrate EDI into their procurement and partnership processes, a large segment did not. That decision has created additional strain on consultants to educate and endure inequities while trying to help the organizations address the same issues internally. 

An article from Inside Philanthropy states, “Since 2020, we have seen a flood of open RFPs from philanthropic organizations soliciting BIPOC consultants to advance their DEI work. They see an open RFP process as more equitable, and requests are infused with language encouraging submissions from historically underestimated and marginalized groups.

In fact, when hiring a DEI consultant, the typical RFP process is both inefficient and exploitive.  While BIPOC expertise can transform how a foundation integrates DEI, the open process hugely disadvantages emerging BIPOC firms, and actually perpetuates the inequities foundations are hiring the DEI consultant to help them address.”

It’s beautiful to see a rise in utilizing women of color consultants. Still, when you realize the additional labor you have to expend even to get a contract that is markedly different from your white or male counterparts, it makes you wonder if it is even worth it.  

Veronica Torres-Hazley, CEO of Torres Hazley Enterprise and Founder of Hey Chica! recounts, “ I am so used to doing extra work to get a contract that it’s refreshing when I don’t have to do that.  When my relationships and expertise allow the process to be smoother, it is the exception, not the norm.”

There are simple actions organizations can take to ensure women of color have an equitable and respectful experience. Before engaging a consultant, have a reasonable budget and clear expectations while remaining flexible if she advises that your desired scope would require additional resources.

Be willing to adjust/decrease the scope or increase your budget. Have a simple proposal process that doesn’t require more than a one-page consultant outline. Also, pay her for her time if you have more than one meeting with them after reviewing the proposal. If you disagree with her rates, going with another consultant is okay. It’s not OK to make her feel wrong about her rates. As someone who has faced pay inequities her entire career, whatever her rate is, it’s still not enough. 

Lastly, ensure that you pay her on time and as agreed. Having her continue to work and made ask about when she should expect payment or wait for payment is taking advantage of her labor and expertise. 

As consultants, we can help combat these issues by talking more openly about our rates and experiences with organizations, affirming one another, and standing together to ensure that we all have equitable experiences and opportunities.

Organizations can’t straddle the fence.  Women of color consultants should not be exempt from efforts to close the gender and racial pay gaps and end bias and racism in the workplace. We are the only ones who can do what we do and how we do it.  It’s high time for women of color consultants to be valued, acknowledged, and respected for their shape-shifting contributions to our society. 


© 2022 VISIBLE Magazine. All Rights Reserved. Branding by Studio Foray.


Your Cart