Widening the Lens
Justice-Oriented Practices Every Business Can Follow
By Sabia Wade
In 2015, I became a volunteer full spectrum prison birth doula and had no idea that my passion for reproductive justice would lead me into the world of entrepreneurship. Since then, I have founded a collection of businesses that includes Birthing Advocacy Doula Trainings, a socially-conscious education hub for birth workers all over the world, Loads of Pride, a queer-centered trucking company, and For the Village, a San Diego-based nonprofit providing low-income families with free and low-cost doula care. I also make financial investments and consult for a variety of emergent and innovative businesses that are focused on reproductive justice, access, inclusion, and equity.
The term “reproductive justice” was coined and formulated as an organizing framework by Loretta Ross and the Women of African Descent for Reproductive Justice in 1994 as a response to the needs of low-income and marginalized groups. These needs, largely left out of discussions during second wave feminism, included comprehensive sex education, safe homes, contraception, and access to adequate healthcare. Sistersong defines reproductive justice as “the human right to maintain bodily autonomy, choose whether or not to have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities”. This doesn’t seem like a big ask, right? In reality, there are many roadblocks preventing low-income and marginalized communities from obtaining this human right, and the recent repeal of Roe v. Wade has made matters even worse. The battle for bodily autonomy and equitable healthcare is far from over.
Entrepreneurship as a vehicle for justice
Advocacy for reproductive justice is vital, but it’s not the only issue we’re up against. Embedded in reproductive justice are systemic issues such as racism, generational poverty, food deserts, over policing, criminalization, and more. As entrepreneurs, we have the ability to make conscious decisions about our mission, vision, values, and business practices, and these decisions have a real impact on the world around us. While not every business will have a clear and direct impact on reproductive justice, there is so much intersectionality between systems that – with the right business model and value set – every entrepreneur has the opportunity to indirectly influence the reproductive justice movement, thereby improving the lives of low-income and marginalized communities.
Creating a business aligned with justice
Sistersong states that we must follow four guiding principles in order to achieve reproductive justice: analyzing power systems, addressing intersecting oppressions, centering the most marginalized, and joining together across issues and identities. Shortly after starting my entrepreneurial journey, I realized that these same principles could serve as general guidelines for businesses that hope to play a role in advancing justice in other spaces. In addition to keeping these principles in mind, below are 3 things that every entrepreneur can actively do to align themselves with justice.
- Define your mission, vision, and values
Be clear about where you stand and what justice means to you personally and professionally. Without clarity on what you stand for, there can be no clear direction. Without direction, there is no possibility for justice. Make sure that your values are clearly reflected in your business practices and upheld consistently across your organization.
- Drop the performance and assume the risk
Justice-centered leadership isn’t about talk, it’s about action. This might require you to address issues that put you outside your comfort zone or perhaps place you in situations where you have to call others out for inappropriate behavior. Creating this standard means that you (or your team) may not always be accepted by people who are not in alignment with your values. In the short term, assuming risk may impact the public perception of your business or your revenue, as was the case with Nike and their partnership with Colin Kaepernick. Be strategic and make space for these changes as they come.
- Do the internal work
As a leader, deepen your self awareness and work to better understand your relationship with fear and shame. It’s scary to stand for justice. Shame is often weaponized as a way to keep leaders from moving forward with a justice-centered vision. Shame can come from mistakes we’ve made in the past or from not having all the answers, but that’s ok. Recognize your shortcomings and move forward with confidence. We are always growing.
Creating a business aligned with justice isn’t always easy, but it is always worth it. As entrepreneurs, we hold a special responsibility to give back and improve the systems that we often benefit from. Choosing to become a part of the solution and using your platform to improve the lives of marginalized people is a noble undertaking that truly makes a difference.
Sabia Wade is a Black, Queer, CEO, Investor, Author, Educator, Full Spectrum Doula, and expander of Black Luxury. She’s dedicated to building bridges for a more inclusive, diverse, and equitable world through Reproductive Justice, distribution of Financial Wealth to BIPOC Communities, and Investing in emergent and innovative businesses. Sabia’s imprint in the evolution can be found through Birthing Advocacy Doula Trainings, For the Village, and within her latest novel, Birthing Liberation (available March 2023). To learn more about Sabia’s work, visit Sabiawade.com.
Related topic: Recknowing with Justice