In 2008, I started a job at Goldman Sachs. More people applied to Goldman that year than Harvard, Yale, and Princeton combined. After training, my first desk sat high above the Hudson River at 1 NYP (New York Plaza). You could see the Statue of Liberty if you took a moment to look up from all the charts and screens. I didn’t need to google any statistics to know I was one of the few Black folks, in my class and my firm. I wondered, did the story look different for Black marketers and diversity in marketing?

Today, I woke up curious. A question popped into my head. Why don’t I know many Black marketers? My network features Black doctors, Black founders, Black creatives, and Black entertainers (musicians, athletes, et al.). Importantly, there are more Black people in finance today than when I started my career. It appears we’re still struggling with diversity in marketing, but let’s look at the statistics.

I did some digging. Black or African American people make up 5.5% of investment bankers. In the banking industry, Blacks represent 2.6% of executive/senior leadership. Interestingly, the population of self-identified Blacks has grown by 32% since 2000, reaching 14.4% of the U.S population. Is there more or less representation of Black professionals in creative or creative-adjacent fields?

According to Ad Age, Blacks are approximately 7.2% of the marketing industry workforce. Unfortunately, it gets worse. Black marketers have the lowest average salary at $33,206. I wish they had a breakdown of marketing jobs by race. Either way, something doesn’t sit right with me. We have an underrepresented, handful of Black marketers. Who’s at the table providing insights to selling to Black consumers? (Inner monologue: Probably non-Black consultants.)

Issa Rae, actress and writer, also a Black marketer for her hair care brand Sienna Naturals
Anecdotally, It always seems that Black founders need to stand in front of their brands while others can stand behind. Issa Rae and Hannah Diop (not pictured) co-own Sienna Naturals.

Studies show that more than 70% of Black consumers—greater than any segment—think that too many brands haven’t done their research when incorporating diversity (race, ethnicity and sexual identity) in their advertising.

Ad Age

More than a third (35.7%) of Black Americans believe that brands always represent Black people the same in advertising, compared with 27.9% among the U.S. general population. In 2018, Nielsen reflected that African Americans were spending $1.2 trillion annually. Moreover, consumers of color represent more than 50% of the overall spending in many key product categories. Surprisingly, despite many areas of underrepresentation, Black spending is greater in proportion to our population.

Chart showing how Black dollars are spent by category for Black marketers

So, where are all the Black marketers helping brands translate their messages? According to McKinsey, there are three ways to address earning Black consumers’ interests. One of those pathways is inclusiveness in hiring practices, including the elevation Black workers to decision-making roles.

This post comes from a place of loneliness and disappointment. I noticed how imbalanced it is for Black founders to accomplish the same success as their counterparts. All founders and business owners have to wear multiple hats. However, the gaps are in venture funding between White and non-White founders is significant. It is true that Blacks must perform at a higher level to earn the same credibility and advancement.

It’s like staring at a puzzle. We spend more, and earn less. And, there are considerably less Black marketers helping brands reach these spenders. Hopefully, there will be more investments into diversity in marketing. As DEIB fights to stay alive, it’s nice to see impactful Black marketers and agencies continue to work with mainstream brands to help tell more representative stories. A big question remains: How can we help you find more of us?