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Becoming Entrepreneurs: Intersections of Race, Class, and Gender at the Black Beauty

Author(s): Adia M. Harvey
Source: Gender and Society, Vol. 19, No. 6 (Dec., 2005), pp. 789-808
Published by: Sage Publications, Inc.
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Intersections of Race, Class, and Gender
at the Black Beauty Salon

Hollins University

This study applies the concept of intersectionality to Black women's entrepreneurial activity. Specifi
cally, the author addresses the ways in which race, gender, and class intersect to inform working-class
Black women's decisions and experiences as hair salon owners. By placing Black women at the center of
analysis, the author explores business ownership from the perspective of a group that has frequently been
overlooked in sociology of entrepreneurship research. The findings indicate that race, gender, and class
inequalities shape working-class Black women's entrepreneurship in two areas: the process of becom
ing entrepreneurs and relationships with stylists.

Keywords: gender; race; class; entrepreneurship; beauty

A great deal of research has applied the concept of intersectionality to understand
the ways race, class, and gender affect individuals. Feminist researchers have been
particularly effective in promoting scholarship that examines race, gender, and
class as interlocking categories of oppression, wherein the experiences of some
minority groups (e.g., Black women) must be understood as a consequence of
racial, gendered, and sometimes class-based inequality (Chafetz 1997; Collins
1990; King 1988). For these women, understanding their experiences involves
more than just knowing how race and gender lead to inequality but mandates an
understanding of how race is gendered and gender is racialized (Browne and Misra
2003). It is this totality that researchers seek to explore.
Accepting the premise that the intersections of race, gender, and class affect vir
tually all aspects of life, feminist researchers examine these intersections in social
arenas such as the workplace, community organizations, media, and others (Collins
1990; Jewell 1993; Rollins 1985). Studies that address interacting oppressions in
the workplace often focus on the ways that race, gender, and class shape minority

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Special thanks to Joya Misra, Miliann Kang, Christine Williams, and the anony
mous Gender & Society reviewers for their helpful feedback and insightful comments.

REPRINT REQUESTS: AdiaM. Harvey, P.O. Box9575, Hollins University, Roanoke, VA 24020-1575;
phone: 540-362-6280; e-mail:

GENDER & SOCIETY, Vol. 19 No. 6, December 2005 789-808
DOI: 10.1177/0891243205280104
? 2005 Sociologists for Women in Society


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gender. gender. and cashiers (Hesse Biber and Carter 2000). Minority women. Jean and Feagin (1998) assert that while some employers view Black women as less threatening than Black men. or health service work. particularly African American women. Reskin and Roos 1990). Browne and Kennelly (1999) argue that stereotypes of Black women as irresponsible single mothers can cloud employers' treatment of Black women workers. white women. This study builds on existing studies of intersectionality and work by exploring the ways the intersections of race. Browne 1999. compensation for work. and alienation in pre dominantly white male workplaces (Alfred 1999. are disproportion ately concentrated in the service industry as cooks. low-status work (Browne and Kennelly 1999.790 GENDER & SOCIETY / December 2005 women's access to certain jobs. Still other researchers argue that Black women workers are likely to experience feelings of marginalization. This content downloaded from 73. widespread acceptance of ste reotypes. Browne 1999). Institutional discrimination. food. 02 Jun 2017 19:32:46 UTC All use subject to http://about. This study shifts the center to focus on a group whose entrepreneurial activity may differ structurally and experientially from the entrepreneurs who are normally the subject of this type of research. Higginbotham and Romero 1997). and discriminatory treat ment in the workplace. Instead. they must prove their capabilities repeatedly and are routinely subjected to racist and sexist .170.38 on Fri. dissonance. Many studies draw attention to the institutionalized racial. and power in the workplace. The dual influence of race and gender means that African American women generally trail Black men. glass ceilings. England 1992. Browne and Misra 2003. St. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK Studies find that the intersection of race. professional. adept workers. and poverty are all structural causes that lead to the occupa tional segregation of working-class Black women (Browne and Kennelly 1999. and the perception of these women's suitability for various occupations (Browne 1999. and class often leaves minority women with limited occupational opportunities (Ammott and Matthei 1997. Similarly. Higginbotham 1997).208.and gender-based barriers in the labor force that shape Black women's occupational patterns and experiences. where economic stability is precarious and they are over represented in low-skill. janitors. lack of mentoring opportunities. and class shape working-class Black women's experiences with entrepreneur ship. prestige. While research has demonstrated that intersecting oppressions are likely to channel working-class Black women into occupations like janitorial. Bonner 2004). These intersecting oppressions often relegate minority women into the bottom of the labor queue. Bell and Nokomo 2001 . this does not translate into a perception that Black women are competent. and white men in earnings.jstor. little is known about how these interacting inequalities affect Black women's entrepreneurial activity.

Black Women's Work in the Hair Industry Structural disadvantages in the labor market have made entry into many fields virtually impossible for Black women. both of which offer little pay. and class play in structuring Black women's work in specific occupations. Higginbotham and Weber 1999. and class?the idea that Blacks are best suited for servitude. and lack of educational opportunities also leave limited work options. Historically. the glass ceiling. prestige. nonetheless. and generally restricted to either domestic or factory work. and those that exist tend to be low paying with low prestige and little authority. gender. from pay to the gen eral devaluation of this work (Dill 1988.38 on Fri. entrenched problems still remain for African American women in the workplace. business ownership can become an appealing pathway to economic support for some Black women (Smith 1992). but some fields have been easier to access This content downloaded from 73. 02 Jun 2017 19:32:46 UTC All use subject to http://about. and that work done in the home does not deserve significant economic reward. The legal and social gains of the 1960s have had an enormous impact on Black women's occupational opportunities. that women belong in the private sphere of the home. rise of the technology indus try. . and hostile workplace cultures are still realities that constrain occupational opportunities for many Black women (Bell and Nokomo 2001. Nelson 1993).jstor. the creation of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.472 firms owned by African American women1 (Center for Women's Business Research 2004). or opportunity for advance ment (Davis 1984). Indeed. Rollins 1985). Feagin 2000. Wilson 1987). Faced with constrained opportunities in the labor market. willingness of colleges and universities to admit Blacks and women. the relocation of jobs to suburbs.208. For working class Black women. Studies of Black women domestic workers provide key insights into how the intersection of race. with recent estimates suggesting that there are now approximately 414. and class. Between the years 1997 and 2004. Black women were prohibited entry into many institutions of higher education. Kousha 1995. denied access to numerous occupations. and class shape various aspects of women's work in this field. Institutional and individ ual discrimination. structural. and affirmative action laws provided Black women with increased opportunities to explore other occupational avenues (Hondagneu-Sotelo 2001). at which point legal and social changes such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (particularly Title VII). Domestic work was the most common occupation for African American women until the 1960s. While these structural changes offer Black women more work options. the numbers of Black women entrepreneurs grew 33 per cent. job security. Hesse-Biber and Carter 2000. or benefits (Barker and Feiner 2004. it is worth noting that Black women's initial overrepresentation in domestic service reflects the intersections of race. gender. the increase in Black women's entrepreneurial activity speaks to its growing popularity as an alternative to the paid labor force. This study focuses on an often understudied segment of business owners?Black working-class women?to explore how their entrepreneurial activity is influenced by race.170. gender. Harvey / BECOMING ENTREPRENEURS 791 Some qualitative studies assess the roles that race.

whites in the beauty industry often refused to service Black customers (Boyd 1998. Nonetheless. Black women have a long history of work within the hair industry dating back to the early twentieth century (Boyd 2000. in keeping with the custom of racial segregation. Labor market disadvantage. African American women have more occupational opportunities than ever before. Walker 1998). Unlike other mostly white entrepreneurs at the time who promoted Black hair care products as ways to eliminate "kinky. the inventor of the straightening comb and first African American millionaire. curly hair.170. 792 GENDER & SOCIETY / December 2005 than others. the intersection of race and gender meant that Black women were effectively excluded from most jobs. many Black women were dismissed from positions they had held and increasingly relied on domestic service for necessary wages. ugly. Boyd (2000) argues that the combination of racial oppression and labor market disadvantage during the great depression in fact led Black women to pursue entre preneurship. and women's occu pational opportunities severely constrained.38 on Fri. For instance. Willett 2000). With racial segregation a common practice. function as middleman minorities in that these entrepreneurs provided a service to groups with whom elites were loath to interact (Butler 1991. however. J. . and many are moving into the private sector as well as into economi cally rewarding fields of entrepreneurship that were unavailable in the past. As the economy declined and employment became increasingly scarce.jstor." Madame Walker established her fortune by marketing her products as ones that would promote healthy hair growth and also employed other African American women as sales associates (Rooks 1996. such as entertainment and consulting (Ammott and Matthei 1997. They did. economic depression. Walker. the beauty industry was distinctive as a niche that Black women could enter relatively easily. Probably the most notable and successful of these early entre preneurs was Madame C. 35). women in the beauty industry did not follow the typical middleman minority route of selling goods and services such as hair products to the masses. 02 Jun 2017 19:32:46 UTC All use subject to http://about. Walker 1998). and maintain access to a relatively untapped con sumer base. who perceived that maintaining a well-groomed appearance was a necessity for securing employment. In this particular case. Smith 1992. and racial discrimination made entrepreneur ship in the hair industry highly appealing for African American women during this time. pursue entrepreneurship. 2000. Black women in the late 1800s and early 1900s sold hair products in Black communities. snarly. Basu and Werbner 2001 . However. Black women's contemporary entrepre neurship in the hair industry remains contextualized by pervasive structural issues This content downloaded from 73. As such. In addition. Greene and Johnson 1995). Their entrepreneurial work in this area reflects the assertion that minority and women's entrepreneurship often has elements of middleman minority characteristics. Madame Walker's success in the hair industry reflects structural barriers that heightened the appeal of entrepreneurship in the hair industry for many African American women. some women gravitated to the beauty industry to supplement their earnings because it was one of few available options for additional income and because a demand for these services came from other Black women. Rooks 1996.

equally important are the ways these interlocking factors shape the more micro-level.208. and class shaped the entrepreneurial activity of working-class Black women. the number of employees ranged from 2 to 13 stylists. positions that generated annual incomes of about $25. Reskin 1999). including working-class neighborhoods. middle-class areas on the outskirts of the city.jstor. these women had been previously employed as sales associates. DATA COLLECTION To assess how race. meaning they hired no employees. the majority of the clientele were Black women. but at each shop. This content downloaded from 73. Some owners had a handful of white or Asian customers. patterns of business ownership. and classism channel Black women into certain occupational niches. gender. While it is important to address how institutionalized racism. I use Sernau's (2001) measure because it encompasses education. and experiences as entrepreneurs. for example. Nine owners had children.000 or less annually. I conducted interviews with 11 Black female hair salon owners in a major city in the mid-Atlantic United States. their children ranged in age from toddlers to adulthood. Hesse-Biber and Carter . and urban. However. income. Browne and Misra 2003. shops in middle-class neighborhoods usually had mostly middle-class women as a customer base. This study explores. Although scholars continue to debate the best way to identify and measure social class. The women I inter viewed owned their businesses for time periods ranging from 2 to 15 years. of these nine. Harvey / BECOMING ENTREPRENEURS 793 that they face in the occupational sphere. fast food workers. The women ranged in age from 25 to 50. As members of the working class. interactional aspects of entrepreneurship. The majority of interviews were tape-recorded. Of the other nine women. The location of the shop tended to mirror the social class of the clientele. Similarly. All interviews took place in the women's shops and generally lasted one hour to an hour and a half. They did not own their homes. and occupational sex segregation (Barker and Feiner 2004. lower-class neighborhoods (see Table 1). and all had worked as stylists before eventually becoming salon owners. or telemarketers. wage inequal ity. these studies address only how intersectionality shapes Black women's entrepreneurship at structural levels. how intersectionality affects Black women's work practices. sexism. All of the owners interviewed here hailed from working-class backgrounds. Two women were sole operators. glass ceilings. 02 Jun 2017 19:32:46 UTC All use subject to http://about.170. The locations of the salons covered a wide range.38 on Fri. including discrimination. I contacted respondents through a snowball method. and wealth as interrelated factors that determine one's position in the class hierar chy. with the exception of three women who were uncomfortable being recorded. Four of the respondents had worked as stylists for other owners included in this study before eventually becoming owners themselves. In these cases I took copious notes. at the level of social interaction. clienteles ranged in income but did not vary widely with regard to race and gender.

Interview questions probed the women's personal histories (family stru marital status. However. 02 Jun 2017 19:32:46 UTC All use subject to .jstor. working class Greta 37 3 married working class 3 Lana 44 14 divorced working class 15 Lola 33 4 single middle-class suburb 1 Maxine 34 3 married working class 2 Miranda 36 12 married middle-class suburb 1 Tanisha 25 2 single working class 4 although six had owned cars. working class.38 on Fri. because there is no voice from women who did not su entrepreneurs. selecting stylists. Initially. none women with whom I spoke knew anyone who had been only temporarily in in the field. I intended to interview some women who had spent time in th industry but were no longer involved in this work to gain a broader per about Black women's experiences in this occupational niche. They easily referred me to other women who still worked in the but did not personally know women who left.000 to $75. and whether salon work would them to clear this debt. and to discuss the challenges an tages of owning a salon.208.170. any sources and amounts of debt. However. other sou income. respondents completed a questionna which they stated their annual earnings from work at the salon. since the objective of the study is to This content downloaded from 73. and none had amassed any other forms of we educational attainment past high school (although all owners completed c ogy school). to descr and how they moved into salon ownership. Respondents also disclosed how they made busin sions: attracting customers. none of these women were raised in families wh combined household incomes reached the middle-class or upper-middle-cl els Sernau describes of $40. This provides somewhat of a tion to the data set. Furthermore. the ext sources of competition within the field.3. which services to offer. .000 per year. At the close of each interview. determining a location for their b and whether they felt that race or gender played a role in their path to entre ship.794 GENDER & SOCIETY / December 2005 TABLE 1 : Demographic Characteristics of Respondents Years Marital Number Location Number Name Age as Owner Status of Children of Salon of Stylists Carrie 50 9 married poor urban 5 Chandra 25 2 single poor urban 3 Charlotte 39 3 married middle-class suburb 3 Danette 35 15 divorced middle-class suburb 7 Denise 37 6 married middle-class suburb. educational background) as well as their occupational and e histories (jobs held prior to salon ownership and annual incomes in these asked the women to describe how they got into the hair industry.

I was able to gain entry into the Black hair salon world fairly easily.38 on Fri. Although in some cases. 02 Jun 2017 19:32:46 UTC All use subject to http://about.170. I did not perceive that the class difference between respondents and myself was an issue in the interviews. cross-class tension can lead to mistrust and suspicion between Black women. I have chosen instead to pinpoint key aspects of the women's entrepreneurial activity to highlight how these various facets were shaped by some combination of these social constructs. the women's decision to become entrepreneurs reflects the find ings of existing studies of gender and entrepreneurial activity. for many women in this study. Grasmuck and Espinal 2000). perhaps because this tension has been noted to exist in middle-class Black women's efforts to provide social services or uplift their working-class counterparts (McDonald 1997). and class shaped my interactions with respondents and influenced the scope and contours of this study. entrepreneurship is a gendered choice in that it allows them to balance the demands of work and family. it would be remiss to ignore how race. In this way. Despite my middle-class status. Many women stated that as salon owners. The intersections of race. then. however.208. in a study of . which may have served to minimize any potential cross-class tensions. In this regard. I was able to capitalize on our shared racial and gen der identity to gain access and develop a rapport with respondents. Black women's initial choice to become entrepreneurs is shaped by gendered factors that appeal to many other women regardless of race or class. Specifically. Davies-Netzley 2000. Overall. The desire to balance work and family is an important factor that often distinguishes women's motivations for entrepreneurial activity from men's (Coughlin 2002. I was not attempting to uplift or assist these women. Finally. gender. a much clearer picture is visible of how one or more of these issues determine the contours of working-class Black women's entrepreneurship. As a middle-class African American woman. class. the responses of women interviewed pro vide useful data to that end. Owners responded to me with a level of familiarity that probably was largely due to our shared racial and gendered status. The data set is too small to make definitive generaliza tions but does begin to illuminate how intersectionality affects entrepreneurship. In analyzing data. Harvey / BECOMING ENTREPRENEURS 795 intersectionality and entrepreneurship. and gender (or some combination of these) are most clearly revealed in two areas of working-class Black women's entrepreneurship: the process of becoming entre preneurs and relationships with stylists. it was This content downloaded from 73. Becoming Entrepreneurs In some ways.jstor. I consciously strove to avoid allowing my own class privilege to blind me to the ways being working class shaped these women's experiences. FINDINGS Rather than describing the ways certain aspects of entrepreneurship were shaped by race or gender or class.

They were able to set their own hours and could structure their time to devote adequate attention to children and work. Gender also influences these women's decisions to situate their entrepreneurial activity in the beauty industry. is 25 with a one-year-old daughter. race." Maxine is 34 and owns a small. Danette. She too spoke of bringing her son to the salon when he was a toddler and allowing him to entertain himself in the shop while she worked: "Everybody loved [my son]. Feminist scholars have frequently argued that for women.. Danette's salon is spacious. nationality. She has owned her salon for nearly two years and employs two other stylists. have hair everywhere. 'Oh. Like many of the women interviewed for this study. even when they reflect an image that these women do not meet (Byrd and Tharps 2001 ." In contrast to Chandra. tree-lined neighborhood.38 on Fri. In response to a question about why she decided to open her own salon. although the degree to which this message is internalized varies depending on factors such as age. the most rewarding part [of owning a salon] is knowing that I do have a small baby. physical attractiveness is issued a heightened importance that is not accorded to men (Wade Gayles 1993. Chandra stated. And then when he got older he would come in Saturday night and clean up for me. I can come and go as I please.796 GENDER & SOCIETY / December 2005 much easier for them to meet the challenges of working full-time and raising chil dren. Milkie 1998). "I can honestly tell you. contemporary standards of beauty are often glorified and upheld among many women. 02 Jun 2017 19:32:46 UTC All use subject to http://about.170. Media in particular reinforce social messages that women should take pains to conform to socially defined stan dards of beauty.jstor. Wilson and Russell 1996). Thus. owns a salon located on the outskirts of the city in a quiet. the decision to become entrepreneurs in the beauty industry represents a choice that clearly reflects gendered norms. things like that. and sexual orientation (de Casa nova 2004. Chandra.. aspects of intersectionality are present here too vis-? vis the unspoken fact that as working-class women. with a bulletin board announcing upcoming community events and African American art lining the walls. one of whom is her best friend Sarah. and I don't have to answer to anybody. . the appreciation for "making women beautiful" was frequently cited as one of the motivations that led them to this line of work. professional child care may be too costly for them to consider it a financially viable option.208. for example. Danette also indicates that part of the lure of entrepreneurship was the opportunity it offered her to balance work and family. Chandra's salon is located in what she acknowledges is a "bad location" because of the rampant drug trade and related criminal activity nearby. A number of owners stated that they loved their work: they loved working with hair and enjoyed the ability to "make women look good." The decision to become a business owner because it offers the advantage of balancing work and family thus reflects one particular way in which entrepreneurial decisions are influ enced by gender. he was cute_Everybody loved him so much that he used to be in the hair. Ironically. given that the hair salon capitalizes on and profits from societal messages about gender and appearance. Perhaps more important. just leave him alone.' . Lovejoy 2001. and they would tell me. However. sparsely furnished salon This content downloaded from 73. Wolf 1991). 35.

For Black women. Instead. 74). The racialized standard of beauty can produce a conundrum for African American women in a society where hair is unequivocally connected to beauty and adherence to beauty ideals is linked to "access to rewards such as employment. because we will get our hair done. Gender ideology demands that women should be attractive. Prior to opening her salon. in other ways. they smile. confident woman in her thir ties. I had customers. Jean and Feagin 1998. the social significance attached to women's hair exposes this contradiction. and dark?the opposite of the ideal. Black women's entrepreneurial work is in some ways shaped by gendered factors that might be applicable to other women entrepreneurs. It is clear that these women's motivations for entrepreneurship in this field reflect the gendered notion that it is appropriate for women to devote attention. Gendered racism labels Black women's hair unattractive and unappealing. Greta. Even when I had to work alone. say thank you. a large consumer base exists for Black women who work in the hair industry. Hair has long been considered a symbol of feminine beauty and attractiveness. time. making them look nice. race and gender intersect to shape these issues in a manner that reinforces mainstream cul ture's messages of African American women's inferiority (hooks 1992. tightly curled. While many women experience con tradictions and tensions that stem from the symbolic significance of hair. straight.208. the social significance of hair reflects a "gendered racism" that has very particular and specific implications (Browne and Misra 1998). con sequently. Wilson and Russell 1996).38 on Fri. Weitz 2001. She was compelled to enter the hair industry because "I've always loved working with hair. Greta states that she never worries about losing business because "[Black women] will go get our hair done. However. but long. and self-esteem" (St. Black women's hair in its natural state is more likely to be short. and money to meeting dominant standards of beauty.jstor. It makes me feel good. but overlapping racial messages often insist that Black women do not meet beauty ideals. income. blonde hair has been epitomized as the female ideal (Rich and Cash 1993). Her shop is located in a middle-class neighborhood adjacent to a major university. The best part of this work is fixing people up. 02 Jun 2017 19:32:46 UTC All use subject to http://about. Harvey / BECOMING ENTREPRENEURS 797 on the ground level of a four-story walk-up . We'll take the rent money to go get our hair done ! We don't believe in looking crazy. Interestingly." Greta's remarks indicate her familiarity with her customers' attitudes about This content downloaded from 73. Their awareness of this market and their ability to tap into it stemmed both from prior experience as stylists and from their first-hand familiarity with the ways in which gendered racism shapes Black women's feelings about their hair. a tall. and I had been doing it since I was a teenager.170. their initial pathway to entrepreneurship is specifically delineated by the intersection of race and gender. runs a small but cozy salon in the same neighborhood as Maxine's. She worked alone for a year before hiring two stylists to join her in her shop." The decision to become entrepreneurs in the hair industry itself indicates how gender shapes entrepreneurial activity. she was a stylist at a shop located a few doors down from the one she now owns. many of the women interviewed became salon owners with full confidence that there was a market for their services. As such.

Unlike middle. Entrepreneurship thus becomes a way for them to avoid or minimize the gender discrimination they face as paid workers. located in a suburban area. they are often motivated to become entrepreneurs as they recognize that institutionalized and individual workplace dis crimination will eventually limit (or has already limited) their continued upward mobility. gender. benefits). telemarketing. "Black women's hair is not easy to do. homes. of making sure hair is profession ally styled even if it comes at the expense of other necessities. and sales associates. Chandra has owned her salon for nearly two years and explicitly stated that financial considerations were why she made the move from working as a stylist This content downloaded from 73. Prior to becoming salon owners.jstor." Unlike most of the women interviewed here. She states. While these women are able to attain middle.. The working-class Black women interviewed for this study. Lola demon strates a clear understanding of how race and gender can affect Black women's feel ings about hair. however.798 GENDER & SOCIETY / December 2005 hair and the importance. these women worked pri marily in the low-skill.and upper-class women's. and she was well aware that these feelings established a vast consumer base for her business. low-wage service jobs in which Black women are dispro portionately represented: fast food. While class plays a role in both groups of women's entrepreneurial work.170. face dif ferent circumstances.208. for four years. although she has worked in the hair business for seven. Lola is another owner whose first-hand understanding of the connections between race. the women interviewed here became entrepreneurs as a route to securing basic financial stabil ity that middle.and upper-class women's deci sions to enter into self-employment." further emphasizing the perception that Black women's hair needs professional styling to be considered appealing. working-class salon owners' economic needs intersected with gender-based ones in that many sought economic stability to meet familial respon sibilities. Interestingly. for some Black women. Like Greta.38 on Fri.or upper-class status (e. one of two sole operators interviewed in this study. Budig (2001) finds that many upper-class women engage in entrepreneurship as a response to the glass ceiling they experi ence in the workplace. factory work.and upper-class women already enjoy. Coming from working-class backgrounds also shapes these women's entrepre neurial activity in a way that differs from middle. 02 Jun 2017 19:32:46 UTC All use subject to http://about. Lola is 33 and has owned her current salon. Similarly. cars. and hair?particularly with regard to Black women?mini mized many anxieties about becoming an entrepreneur. did not provide a way to continue upward mobility as much as it was a step toward upward mobility.g. filing clerks. It is too easy to burn your hair off! That's why people come to the salon.and upper-class women who became entrepreneurs to avoid a glass ceiling. and a lot of [Black women] don't know what to do with it. but it's better not to. she also likens not having professionally done hair to "looking . Furthermore. it shapes working-class women's advent into entrepreneurship differently than middle. Lola is a sole oper ator. then. Entrepreneurship. Davies Netzley (2000) cites this as one of the primary factors that leads white and Latina women into entrepreneurship. You can do your hair at home.

they must follow the rules and guidelines established by the salon owner. are the only two owners interviewed who work alone. I can make $500 in a day. When asked about her transition to salon ownership. Charlotte was employed as a security guard. Charlotte is another owner whose pathway to entrepreneurship was shaped by these interlocking factors. owners' relationships with stylists. offers Chandra a way to sidestep some forms of racial and gendered discrimination and to achieve the economic stability necessary to provide for her family. I'm not going to work for . because I was barely making $500 every two weeks. you have to split like 50 percent with them. Lana employed 14 stylists. stylists pay a monthly rent to owners for the use of space at the salon. to varying degrees. and it's mine. Harvey / BECOMING ENTREPRENEURS 799 at a chain salon to opening her own establishment. As a working-class mother. I knew I didn't want welfare. and they take out for the shampoo. I had three kids." Like Chandra and many of the other women interviewed for this study.208. Although stylists are technically independent contractors. therefore. and class. and I knew I didn't want to be on welfare. As an Afri can American woman. economic stabil ity is absolutely essential. but she concedes that familial concerns were important as well: "I have a baby. At 39. Relationships with Stylists: The Helping Ideology The relationship between Black women salon owners and the stylists they hire is the other key area of entrepreneurship that is shaped by the interplay of race. she stated bluntly. retirement plans. Miranda and Lola. dental insurance. All the owners operated salons in which they charged stylists booth rent. or sick leave. Stylists are then permitted to keep all money from business transactions but are not guaranteed any benefits such as medi cal insurance. more than any other owner interviewed for this study. 02 Jun 2017 19:32:46 UTC All use subject to http://about. The relationship between owners and stylists is unique in a number of respects. In contrast. Salon owners interviewed for this study typically hired 1 to 3 stylists to work in their shops. and at Supercuts.jstor. Owners generally profess a willing ness to assist stylists in their professional development and growth as well as a This content downloaded from 73. So I went into the hair industry. Under this system. or in two days." Chandra's statement underscores how becoming an entrepreneur was shaped by her class position as well as by racialized. Chandra's hardships in the labor market likely reflect the complex interplay of gender and race. Salon ownership.38 on Fri. and either party can terminate the working relationship. so I said. Charlotte is a straightforward. salon ownership provided a viable solution to child care responsibilities as well as economic instability that was likely compounded by issues of race and gender. Before work ing in the hair industry. Being here. both in their mid-thirties.170. Possibly most striking is the ideology of help and support that shapes. gen der. "I had kids. they take out for the conditioner. but I also knew I had to raise my kids. gendered factors. no-nonsense woman who owns an airy but sparsely furnished salon in the suburbs. to the point where the deduction of shampoo and other supplies from her wages meant that she was not earning enough to support her fam ily.

Lana is opinionated and outspoken and tells her stylists frequently that she expects them to eventually go into business for themselves. she has a learning disability. . with two floors. and after learning that Tanisha styled hair for several of the women in the congregation. We had some challenges! She had a bad attitude.800 GENDER & SOCIETY / December 2005 readiness to help them succeed in the business. God! I can't deal with this!" But then I was like. and is usually bus tling with her clientele of mostly middle-class African American women. worked as stylists in Lana's salon before opening their own shops." Lana also requires that her stylists attend mandatory workshops she sponsors on money management. Lana's reply was similar to that of many other owners: "Having people leave here and become salon owners. Tanisha and Lana first met at church. and I was like. what's going to happen to her? Lana's desire to help another Black woman overrode her irritation with Tanisha's initial lack of professionalism and negative attitude. she's never going to be anything. Lana's awareness of Tanisha's circumstances?an unsupportive guidance counselor and her learning disability?further compelled her to put into practice her ideology of helping other Black women.38 on Fri. "I don't mind helping people to do what I did. this help ing ideology motivates owners to encourage stylists to pursue entrepreneurship and to open their own salons. if you This content downloaded from 73. Tanisha began working full-time for Lana immediately after high school and remained at this salon for three years before moving on to open her own salon. In her interview. 02 Jun 2017 19:32:46 UTC All use subject to http://about. or jealous. . Interestingly. Lana's relation ship with Tanisha in particular exemplifies how the nature of the relationship between owners and stylists is sometimes shaped by a willingness to help other Black women prosper in the industry. And I worked with her. This is really a field where Black women can do well. is perhaps the most interesting embodiment of this philos ophy in practice. and it's important that people understand that and respect this industry. "Oh. an owner in her mid-forties who has owned her salon for nearly 15 years. two other owners interviewed for this study. or envious. and business ethics so that they will have exposure to the knowledge she deems necessary for successful entrepreneurship.170. Tanisha and Greta. which Lana attributes to Tanisha's youth.208. Lana. Her salon is large and upscale. But I'll tell people. as long as they are not sneaky. Lana describes their initial relationship: I talked to her guidance counselor [to get permission for her to work in my shop in the afternoons as part of her work study program] and her counselor was like. she maintains a more moderated tone about the importance of helping other Black women in the . While she does express gratitude for Lana's guidance and mentoring. Tanisha also discussed the early days of her relationship with Lana. customer service. . I don't like that. In its most extreme cases. In addition. When asked the most rewarding part of owning a salon.jstor. Lana and Tanisha began with a rather rocky start. Lana decided to take Tanisha under her wing. and it wasn't easy. if I don't help the sister. "Oh. and being successful at it. her attitude was." Basically. you take her because we don't know what else to do with her.

Denise. and jealous" mitigates the extent to which she is willing to transform the helpful ideology into actual practice. Tensions. gender. their sense of gender/racial solidarity compelled them to help other Black women of the same class position. is 37 and owns a salon that was passed down to her by her mother on retirement. Denise owns two other salons in differ ent parts of the city as well. Light and Rosenstein 1995). But when you go to get money for small This content downloaded from 73. However. envious. Contradictions. I will help others because you can do the same thing that I do. Many women interviewed stated unhesitatingly that getting access to start-up funding was the most difficult part of becoming entrepreneurs. Denise relied on unconventional strate gies to procure necessary start-up capital. Jones and Shorter-Gooden 2003).and middle-class Black women as the mani festation of a desire to help their lower-class counterparts (Giddings 1984. come to me! I'll show you. the helping ideology that often underlies the relationship between owner and stylist is very clearly influenced by a sense of race. McDon ald 1997. the ideology of helping stylists shift from being independent contrac tors to entrepreneurs informs owners' relationships with their stylists. the intersections of race. for instance. and Problems Predictably. However. specific methods for offering her assistance. this ideology does not inform Tanisha's behavior to the same degree that it does Lana's.208.38 on Fri. Like most of the other women in this study. and class can cause working-class Black women to face certain specific obstacles with entrepreneurship. One such obstacle is the issue of access to start-up capital. I'll help you. "The government will give money to. seems like everybody else. I don't mind.jstor. If you need help. in the case of Black female salon owners. She stated. This helping ideology?owners' desire to help stylists successfully shift to entrepreneurship?stems from a sense of gender/racial solidarity. 02 Jun 2017 19:32:46 UTC All use subject to http://about. Owners did not seek to uplift less fortunate Black women.170. This echoes other studies that indicate that women and racial/ethnic minority men must often turn to nontraditional sources of funding to finance entrepreneurial ventures (Bonacich 1973. And as she suggests. their sense of gender/racial solidarity extended to other working-class women in the same class position. instead. she too is driven by the ideology of help and support. White 1999). The salon is located outside the city limits in a suburban area that draws a mostly middle-class clientele. As such. both of which service mostly working-class women. and class solidarity that facili tates a level of support that Black women in other workplaces rarely experience (see Bell and Nokomo 2001. Harvey / BECOMING ENTREPRENEURS 801 want to learn something from me. Other research describes gender/racial solidarity among upper. her perception that stylists can be "sneaky." As Tanisha's statement suggests. Nonetheless. Yet this gender/ racial solidarity also has a dimension of class solidarity. This willingness to help is based on shared experience of racial and gender discrimination but is also characterized by the willingness to reach across class lines to help those less economically privileged. Tanisha is willing to provide help but does not enact . gender. While Lana goes out of her way to help her stylists transition into entrepreneurship.

she attributes this obstacle to race and gender. 02 Jun 2017 19:32:46 UTC All use subject to http://about. She interprets her difficulty securing funding as a common pitfall that Black women face at the onset of entrepreneurship. and class-based solidarity with their stylists. This is evi denced by Tanisha's perception that stylists could be "sneaky. So the hard part was trying to get help from the government. Consequently. and Moody 2000. For instance. As is sometimes common for women and racial/ethnic minority men. Heterogeneous social net works composed of nonfamily members are most efficacious in starting a business because they offer access to a wider range of information (Renzulli.208. Aldrich. Social networks that comprise primar ily other African American women can limit the degree and breadth of information and knowledge available to these owners. but it also reflected minimal knowledge of real estate in other parts of the city that might have offered other ben efits such as better parking. and Moody 2000)." Like most of the other women interviewed. or lower property taxes. feelings of mistrust and skepticism were sometimes also a part of this dialogue. Significantly. varied information that might have enabled them to make differ ent. I should not have moved so fast. which likely failed to offer the women the sort of . Granovetter (1973) suggests that social ties are a necessity for successful entrepreneurship but that loose ties are preferable because they place the entrepreneur in contact with diverse groups that can maximize the business' potential for success. as Black women] have to go through a lot. more economically sound business decisions. that was not such a good idea." This content downloaded from 73. these women's social networks tended to comprise those similar to themselves (Renzulli. The parking around here is bad. we [she makes a gesture to indicate the two of us. an untapped customer base. which were populated primarily by Black women. I actually hope to move somewhere else pretty soon. This was beneficial in that it helped them remain accessible to former clients. These women's status as working-class Black women also shaped their access to social networks in ways that likely undermined their potential for economic returns as entrepreneurs. Maxine states.170. The easy part was having faith in the Lord's will. social networks tended to be homogeneous. Aldrich. and social ties.38 on Fri.802 GENDER & SOCIETY / December 2005 businesses. Denise secured her start-up capital for buying the other salons through meticulous savings as well as loans from family and friends. and if I had to do it again. Nee. envious. while many owners articulated a sense of racial. gender. Close ties put the entrepreneur in touch with those who tend to have the same knowledge. The helping ideology that can inform the relationships between owners and styl ists is also somewhat contradictory. many women relied on those in their social networks for information about available property that they could pur chase or rent out to open their salons." Race and gender play a role here in con straining some owners' business decisions. many women opened salons near the ones where they had previously worked as stylists. In hind sight. in the process of becoming owners. I wouldn't have rushed. Thus. Often. experiences.jstor. and Sernau 2002). Sanders. "I moved right up the street when a place became available. For instance. networks were formed at the salons. or jealous. That was the hard part.

music too loud. She is predisposed to help stylists out of a sense of solidarity. the success these women experience as business owners must be exam ined in the context of entrepreneurial ventures at large. and class shape these women's entrepre neurial choices to channel them into a field that relative to other avenues of entrepreneurship. . Any type of shows I can get them to." Charlotte's statement clearly emphasizes a contradictory aspect of the helping ideology. product information. for example.233). The sense of solidarity many owners felt toward their Black women stylists did not transcend these owners' preconceptions about the lack of professionalism and reliability among some Black women.208. and class have a definitive impact on the market these entre preneurs try to reach as well as these women's actions. I give them all the information about up and coming shows. dressed like those girls in the videos. and experiences as entrepreneurs. race. Existing studies often fail to consider the This content downloaded from 73. Although race. gender.38 on Fri." Charlotte. But if in fact the behavior of them or their clients is out of order. and class shape their entry into salon ownership and their relationships with stylists. it becomes increasingly clear that race. certain behaviors .170. CONCLUSIONS The results of this study demonstrate that intersectionality is a key factor in working-class Black women's entrepreneurial activity in two important regards: the transition to entrepreneurship and the nature of relationships with stylists. described the "hip hop crowd" as "those girls who come in late.jstor. gender. owning a hair salon is an economically sound business decision but one that does not exempt them from the pitfalls and challenges that are common to Black female entrepreneurs. especially women in their thirties and forties. offers fewer returns and less prestige. 1997). . This research contributes to the literature on women and entrepreneurship and to studies of ethnic entrepreneurship as well. Many owners. That is not professional_I will help stylists in any way I can. Finally. carrying on. 02 Jun 2017 19:32:46 UTC All use subject to http://about. these women's entrepreneurial ventures are located in the personal service sector. Like the majority of Black-owned businesses. Through the use of intersectionality as a theoretical lens. For many of these women. I will pull them to the side and let them know. cursing. Furthermore. it is important to note that these women still experience ghettoization within the entre preneurial sector. The use of an intersectional framework therefore provides greater insight into the social processes of entrepreneurship. but this willingness has its limits. women's businesses in general tend to be "smaller than men's" and involved in a "narrow range of activity"?characteristics that are appli cable to these women's hair salons (Grasmuck and Espinal 2000. Harvey / BECOMING ENTREPRENEURS 803 even as she expresses a willingness to help them advance to entrepreneurship. which tends to generate fewer economic returns than emerging (and male-dominated) fields of minority entrepreneurship such as construction and manufacturing (Bates 1993. described a definite aversion to hiring members of what they termed "the hip hop crowd. . Gender.

they often had to produce feelings of pleasant ness and interest in customers as part of their work. Grasmuck and Espinal 2000). and gender combine to create an entrepreneurial experi ence for minority women that differs from the entrepreneurial patterns of immi grant men or white women (see Bonacich 1973.208. It would be interesting to assess whether women's entrepreneurship in this context similarly reinforces their poverty or functions as a route out of poverty. In many cases. Future research should explore the nature and scope of the economic rewards these women experience as a result of their entrepreneurial activity. future research should explore whether working-class Black women's entrepreneurial activity can be a catalyst for long-term advance . the experiences of minority women. While these findings dem onstrate how intersectionality can help clarify some significant aspects of This content downloaded from 73. Owners did perform emotional labor for clients. they too fail to incorporate both gender and race into their analyses of entrepreneurship (Butler 1991.jstor. Greene and Johnson 1995). class. While some researchers draw attention to women's and African Amer icans' understudied patterns of business ownership by arguing that they reflect the middleman minority paradigm. Future study should compare the ways Black women salon owners may engage in emotional or body labor differently when their customers are women of other racial groups and/or men. because the customer base for whom owners produced this emotional labor was largely Black women. While these questions are out side the scope of this study. As such. 02 Jun 2017 19:32:46 UTC All use subject to http://about. Portes and Bach 1985). particularly working-class minority women. Furthermore.804 GENDER & SOCIETY / December 2005 ways in which race. salon ownership enabled these women to raise their children in families on house hold incomes between $25. However.38 on Fri. and intergenerational class mobility.170. There was no group to which this labor could be compared. future research should examine the experiences of Black women entre preneurs in other areas. are left out of the discourse. greater economic stability. The data collected in this study illuminate the ways factors often associated with entrepreneurship?economic stability. Sernau 2001).000 and $50. Among women in developing countries. 2000. Kang 2003). child care?specifi cally affect working-class Black women as well as how the helping ideology may create a distinctively supportive workplace for stylists.000 annually?an income level often con sidered middle class (Oliver and Shapiro 1995. it was difficult to assess how this labor would have been constructed differently were customers of different races or genders. this raises the question of exactly how children benefit from mothers' increased economic stability (Grasmuck and Espinal 2000). It is worth consider ing whether children of these owners will be able to capitalize on their families' middle-class incomes to remain in the middle class as adults or to achieve intergenerational mobility and ascend to higher class levels. Hennon et al. The case of Black women salon owners would also offer an interesting site for study of emotional or body labor (see Hochschild 1983. entrepreneurship often does not lead them out of poverty or transform the causes that placed them into poverty (Barker and Feiner 2004. Finally. since increases to a mother's income (especially as a result of microenterprise) can positively affect children's health and nutrition.

and Pnina Werbner. Bonacich. American Sociological Review 38:583-94.1 million or 89 percent of these. white men owned 79 percent of these businesses. from http://chronicle. Such research would draw attention to the ways these intersections of race. Race. Retrieved June 11. Edna. Ella J. Banking on Black enterprise.jstor. 2004. DC: Joint Studies for Political and Economic Studies.8 million businesses in the United States.6 million businesses owned by women. 1997.208. projections suggest that by 2004. Bonner. and firms owned by Native American women grew 69 percent to . 1993. Mary. class. Success in the ivory tower: Lessons from Black tenured female faculty at a major research university.459 (29 percent) firms were owned by Asian Ameri can men. Ethnic and Racial Studies 24 (2): 236-62. or similarly. Overall. 2001.. VA: Stylus. and white women owned 21 percent. In total. firms owned by Hispanic women grew 64 percent to 553.7 million firms owned by minority men. Bell. 2001. and globalization. there were 10.. In Sisters of the academy. the limitations of the small.Barker. Dipannita. Pro jected estimates for women of other racial groups suggest that between 1997 and 2004. Washington. and Julie A.486 (39 percent) firms were owned by Hispanic men. Green. although Census data suggest that in 1997.643 (26 percent of all minority men owned firms) firms were owned by Black men.793. the number of firms owned by Asian American women grew 69 percent to 419. Race. -. Businesses owned by women of other minority groups are projected to have increased as well. Boston: Harvard Business School Press. 1973.730. shape entrepreneurial experiences for Black women in a variety of settings. Chronicle Review. 666. Drucilla K. 1999.htm This content downloaded from 73. with white women owning 9.38 on Fri. Mattaei. and Stella Nokomo. Comparable projections have not been made for men.1997. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Liberating economics: Feminist perspectives on families. A total of 443. in 1997. and minority women owning 1. In Workplace/women's place. Further research would enable comparisons between the women studied here and Black women entrepreneurs in other cities and entrepreneurial ventures. and class may differently. Fred A. and upward mobility: An illusive dream. nonrandom sample used for this study make generalizations impossible.4 million or 21 percent of these. A theory of middleman minorities. edited by Reitumetse Obakeng Mabokela and Anna L. there were 1. during this seven-year span.872 (6 percent) firms were owned by Native American men. and 106. gender and women's works: A conceptual framework. self-employment. Our separate ways: Black and white women and the struggle for professional identity. Bates. Black professors: On the track but out of the loop. Los Angeles: Ruxbury. Of the remaining 85 percent owned by whites. 02 Jun 2017 19:32:46 UTC All use subject to http://about. Timothy. work. Ammot. 2004. edited by Dana Dunn. Theresa L. gender.170. Harvey / BECOMING ENTREPRENEURS 805 entrepreneurship for working-class Black women. Sterling. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. and Susan Feiner.. NOTE 1. 497. REFERENCES Bootstrap capitalism and the culture industries. 2004. minorities owned 15 percent of the 20. Basu.

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