Sharon Chuter is, and always has been, a straight shooter. The UOMA Beauty Founder and CEO and former LVMH beauty executive is not one to sugar coat or hold punches, and it rings true of her latest initiative.
The Nigerian-born mogul launched the 72-Hour Pull Up or Shut Up Challenge yesterday, and it’s just as bold as it sounds. She’s challenging beauty brands to be transparent about their inclusion hiring practices. More specifically, she’s charging that the brands show the public the exact number of Black people they have working in corporate and leadership roles at their companies.
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The goal of the #PullUpOrShutUp campaign, according to Chuter, is to bring awareness to the underrepresentation of Black people in corporate America, especially in leadership roles. The call-to-action is for consumers to hold off their spending for 72 hours or until their favorite brands, many of which have released recent statements in support of Black Lives Matter, disclose those numbers.
“For me this moment seemed right because it was the first time that brands went public and spoke directly to Black people. That’s good, it’s great—we’re moving in the right direction—let’s take it further in enacting real lasting change,” Chuter tells ESSENCE.
“I want to make it clear that this isn’t about bullying brands, it’s not an exercise in naming and shaming. This is a wake-up call. It’s saying, there is a problem,” she continues. “Thank you for your monetary donations, but we have to go back to the root cause, we have to go back and look at the overall system of oppression that has lasted for 400 years. We have to be cognizant of that. For the first time the world is listening, people are partnering with us at mass—we have the opportunity to make a long term change for future generations.”
Chuter, who has held leadership positions at Benefit Cosmetics and L’Oréal knows exactly what it feels like to be the only Black person at the decision-making table. She launched UOMA Beauty in 2018 with a forward thinking approach to diversity and inclusion. And with this campaign, she’s giving other beauty brands the opportunity to join her. Her investors, she says, are totally in her corner.
“I didn’t go into investor meetings saying, ‘I’m going to make y’all rich!’ From day one I went in saying I am going to fight for my people and if you’re interested in that, come to war with me,” she told ESSENCE. “Luckily, my investors are people who actively [believe] in Black businesses and I am so proud of that.”
In less than 24 hours the Pull Up Or Shut Up official Instagram page garnered nearly 7,000 followers, many of which are calling out specific brands and retailers such as KKW Beauty, Amazon, Sephora, Sally Beauty, Zara, and even Bank of America.
No brands have come forward on the page with those numbers yet.
As for brands who want to “pull up” to enact change but realize they are seriously lacking in diversity, Chuter says she’s here as a resource, among other qualified Black women who left corporations that needed to make major changes.
“All organizations and corporations have an equal opportunity to make this right,” she concludes. “Look at what’s not working. Ask yourself, what’s not clicking? Look at things from another perspective. Review internal policies. Have the humility to say, I have not done enough, but I am prepared to be educated, and to be held accountable to do more. That’s what this moment is about.”