Deemed a forward-thinking executive by WWD, Sharon Chuter knows from real-life experience that diversity is scarce in the beauty industry.
In hopes to rebuild the Black middle-class, the Founder and CEO of UOMA Beauty embarked on a mission to close the gap in the multi-billion dollar business and hopefully put an end to the financial disparity experienced by Black Americans.
Aligned with the George Floyd protests, the Nigerian-born businesswoman launched the “Pull Up or Shut Up” campaign.
Eager to learn more about the radical call-to-action moment that encourages brands to reveal the number of Black employees at their companies, we spoke to the beauty entrepreneur about her goals to rebuild the community one job at a time.
“The Black community needs to know about this,” Sharon tells BET Digital exclusively. “We need to hold brands accountable.”
In case you didn’t know, News One reports that Black consumers spend more than $1 trillion a year. Sadly, despite having an extreme spending power, Blacks are still victims of an unbelievably large wealth gap.
“How capitalism works and was set up is [that] we spend with companies, and companies employ us. And it’s a whole cycle,” Sharon shares. “In the Black community the cycle is, we spend with companies—we are big spenders—but then they don’t employ us.”
“We are down there below the poverty lines,” she shared before connecting the dots between systemic racism, white supremacy, and police brutality. “If we don’t keep people working, we are going to be picked off by the streets. We have to get people working to change the narrative.”
She continues, “Corporate America holds a huge responsibility for that [helping people get off the streets] because they are the custodians of work,” Sharon said, highlighting that Black people only hold 8% of the seats at high paying Corporate America jobs.
Statistics do not lie. According to Brookings, an average white family earns $171,000 a year, which is nearly ten times greater than a Black family who only earns $17,150.
“Nobody knows how the corporations are not employing us,” she expressed. “This is an opportunity for transparency because without transparency these companies will not move.”
In efforts to hold companies accountable, Sharon called out for the brands to “Pull Up or Shut Up” and provide the statistics of how many Black people hold employment with their organizations.
“This is an exercise to show the customer you have the power,” she encourages. “If you don’t ask for it, it will never happen. It is high time we start building Black wealth.”
Noting that you can count the number of Black billionaires on your hand; Sharon has positioned herself to spearhead the mission to bring equality in the search for lucrative job opportunities.
With the hopes to encourage Black people to buy from businesses that are “feeding you back,” the movement has grown significantly with over 118K Instagram followers to date.
In less than a month, major brands participated in sharing their statics including Estée Lauder, L’Oréal, and Ulta Beauty. Some brands have even taken it a step further by requesting assistance in developing action plans, solutions, and diversity task forces.
“They are moving now. If we kept quiet last week [during the BLM protests], they would have all posted their statements of solidarity and donated $1 million between NAACP and the Black Lives Matter Movement and moved on,” she passionately states.
Due to the “Pull Up or Shut Up” campaign, huge beauty brands have committed to update the public about their employee numbers.
While Sharon says there were no surprisingly negative numbers because of her experience working in the beauty industry, in some cases with no other Black workers, the beauty CEO admits that Kylie Jenner’s Kylie Cosmetic brand left her surprised by its staffing percentages.
“I was shocked by some of the really high numbers," she happily expresses. “Kylie’s numbers were at 13%, so I was surprised by that. That was really good!”
Of course, Sharon couldn’t help but express how proud she is of the results seen thus far from the movement.
“We are actually seeing very sizable actions coming out of this in terms of real jobs being created,” Sharon shared celebrating the hiring of Chief Diversity Officers. “The money is flowing already.”
Hoping to pivot to other business industries, with the help of celebrities and influencers, Sharon hopes that her mission will be the “biggest economic transformation for Black people that we’ve seen in centuries.”
* This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.