GCF growth strategy: Black women

Greater Cincinnati Foundation has staked out support for Black women as its most meaningful way to contribute to robust economic growth and a thriving community.

To do that, GCF, the region’s leading community foundation serving eight counties in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, is investing in programs to fund research and address barriers to improve the upward economic mobility of Black women in Greater Cincinnati.

“Smart communities need to advance an equitable growth strategy that creates quality jobs, increases human potential and expands opportunity for everyone,” said Ellen Katz, the foundation’s president and CEO. “Pursuing an equitable growth strategy will make us stronger.”

Ellen Katz

A study by the Alpaugh Family Economics Center at the University of Cincinnati supports GCF’s strategy.

“Center researchers conducted an in-depth evaluation through historical analysis of Black female labor trends, an economic assessment within the Cincinnati region, and interviews with Black women to understand their economic mobility journeys,” said Julie Heath, the center’s director. “To our knowledge, this is a first-of-its-kind research project in our region to completely center on Black women and their economic circumstances.”

According to Katz, “By 2040, people of color will be the majority in Hamilton County. Unlocking the potential of this diverse workforce will be a boon to our regional economy.”

UC’s study found that Black women have a high desire to participate in the workforce, with a prime-age labor force participation rate of 78.3% in the region. According to the Harvard Business Review, 17% of Black women are in the process of starting or running new businesses nationwide.

“Black women present the best opportunity for economic mobility and growth in the Greater Cincinnati region,” Heath said. 

Among GCF’s investments to lift the Black woman and her family:

  • UpTogether provides low-income families with cash to achieve their goals in exchange for contributing their data to a national platform that tracks progress. This data has shown meaningful increases in income and savings with corresponding decreases in dependence on public assistance.
  • Queens Village, an initiative of Cradle Cincinnati, focuses on supporting Black women, reducing Black infant mortality, and driving awareness of racial health disparities. With an extensive reach and growing list of partnerships, it has become a key organization for reducing inequities experienced by Black women.
  • Economic & Community Development Institute and Women’s Business Center of Greater Cincinnati provide access to coaching, workshops, mentorships, networking opportunities, and co-working spaces for Black women-owned small businesses. This effort expands job creation, revenue and tax dollars for our region.

These investments are intended to close the health care, wage, employment and wealth gaps in race that have been bad for people of color in our region, but also for the economy at large. The National Equity Atlas found that had there been no gaps in income by race, Greater Cincinnati’s GDP – gross domestic product, or the total of all goods and services created, bought and sold in the region – would have been $9.2 billion stronger in 2019.

Adding to the reasons why GCF has chosen to focus on helping Black women, other data from credible sources shows that:

  • Nearly half of employed Black women make less than $15 an hour compared to 27% for white women and 24% for all women.
  • Black women are not seeing the economic returns for increased educational attainment, as 32% of employed Black women with a bachelor’s degree are making less than $15 an hour compared to 13% of white women, 10% of Black men and 11% of white men at the same education level.
  • With the highest unemployment rate of the gender-racial cohorts, Black women have a disproportionately harder time gaining employment.
  • 26% of Black women have annual earnings below the federal poverty level.
  • Black women are predominantly in jobs that do not pay a living wage.
  • Within occupations that employ the highest number of Black females, there is a high concentration in health care, retail, administration and food service support, which are four of the five top industries in our region by number of employees.

With these challenges facing the Black women in Greater Cincinnati, GCF knows that it cannot do the work alone.

“We need the collective wisdom, will and action of the community to create a vibrantand equitable region for everyone,” said Katz. “We hope others will join us in the movement.”


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