Maggie Lena Walker, the first female bank president of any race to charter a bank, famously said: “To avoid the traps and snares of life, black women must band together, put their mites together, put their hands and their brains together, and make work and business for themselves.”

Great advice from Ms. Walker from more than a century ago, yet there has been very little progress since then.

Key stats from the Philadelphia Commission on Women 2017 report on the State of Women and Girls of Philadelphia:

  • Women make up more than half of the population of Philadelphia, but own less than 40 percent of businesses.
  • African Americans own approximately 25 percent of businesses while making up nearly 50 percent of the total population.
  • African American-owned businesses with city contracts declined from 45 percent in 2010 to 38 percent in 2016.
  • Businesses owned by African American women comprised only 17 percent of businesses receiving city contracts.

That last statistic is particularly appalling in a minority-majority city like Philadelphia, where it seems that black women-owned businesses are not given a chance to compete for economic opportunities.

When you review some of the traditional barriers that exist for African American women entrepreneurs you’ll start to understand why inequity in black women-owned businesses still exists.

1. Race and gender bias

Many black women business owners are judged by false stereotypes, including assumptions that the success of women-owned businesses is because of their husbands, implying that women-run businesses are not smart enough or qualified enough to have their own accomplishments.

2. Networking challenges

There’s a reason why it’s called the “old boys club.” Women aren’t traditionally a part of informal social circles that create opportunities for professional advancement. Most networking events have very few women of color, which is an impediment to making the right connections and creating access to beneficial networks. Networks are an opportunity for mentorships, which are invaluable during the startup phase of small businesses.

3. Lack of access to capital

Women entrepreneurs as a whole are offered smaller loans across every product from the same groups. Female entrepreneurs pursuing venture capital face the same disadvantages. For African American women, the chances of obtaining loans are exceedingly low. The Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) reports that black-owned small businesses are more likely to be denied credit than non-black-owned small-businesses. They are also more likely to pay higher interest rates, which results in fewer black women entrepreneurs applying for loans.

There also is a revenue gap between African American women-owned businesses and all women-owned businesses.

Black women often start businesses by pursuing their passion. It is the drive that keeps them going when encountering the many barriers and obstacles they will face. One of the things we as black women business-owners need to do is to direct that passion into partnerships with other black-owned businesses. Through these partnerships, we can create our own networks and mentorships, and begin to address some of the inequities in our businesses.

Rhonda Hill Wilson, Joann Bell, and Dr. Emma Chappell are members of the Black Women’s Leadership Council.