How to break racial bias in the Influencer Marketing space
Culture & Ethics

How to break racial bias in the Influencer Marketing space

Neve Fear-Smith
Neve Fear-Smith

Breaking racial bias and paying influencers of color fairly is an essential conversation to have not only in the Influencer Marketing industry but across all aspects of life. 

To reflect on the marketing activations during US Black History Month 2024 and hear from influencers about the brand’s approach to this significant time in our calendars, we hosted a webinar titled ‘Breaking the Bias: Pay Black Creators Fairly’. 

The Creator Economy is set to hit $480 billion, and a stark reality has surfaced that 50% of influencers of color feel underpaid due to their race, with an 18.7% pay gap between white and non-white influencers, according to an extremely insightful report from Nielsen

Without embarking on regular conversations that tackle this issue, there will be no starting point for change. 

Our Account Manager Emmy Petit, who is also an influencer, was joined by fellow influencers Funmi Ford and Cecil Horton and Influencer Marketing specialist Christina Westley to speak on their experiences and inspire change. 

Reflecting on Black History Month

Black History Month 2024 seemed quieter than ever. All of the panelists noted that this year, Valentine’s Day overshadowed BHM on social media platforms. And while brands have made strides in including Black creators year-round in their marketing activities, there’s a concerning trend of neglecting BHM. It's crucial to recognize that Black people are still marginalized, making it imperative to pay attention to Black History Month even in today's economy.

From Christina’s brand marketing perspective, there's a noticeable drop in marketing budgets in Q1 post-holiday season. However, reaching out to creators, particularly Black creators who are already underpaid, and expecting them to work for lower costs or for free during this time is unacceptable.

Solidify your rate of pay

Determining fair compensation remains a challenge in the influencer space. Unlike corporate roles or public trades, there’s a lack of transparency regarding baseline pay grades. Money can be a very personal subject, but increasing transparency on the topic could aid creators in receiving fair compensation for their work.

Cecil highlighted the concept of “diversity tax”, which they add to their content fee. This is also referred to as “cultural taxation” and is a phenomenon where underrepresented groups regularly take on extra, often unrecognized, and unpaid responsibilities within their work. In Cecil’s case, when creating content they’re frequently expected to provide racial, cultural, and gender representation when working on a brand campaign. Despite these additional contributions, brands do not typically compensate for the added value they bring, therefore, they ensure their invoices reflect this. 

Cecil and fellow creator Funmi also stressed the importance of clearly communicating their worth to brands, backed by statistics and anecdotes that showcase the value of their content and engaged audiences. Brands should be open to negotiation based on the information creators provide, especially if discrepancies exist in payment between white and Black creators.

In fact, Nielsen’s report showcased stats that Black influencer drive higher media value for marketers: 

Source: Nielsen
Starting from the top

Within the working world as a whole, companies need to prioritize diversity in leadership roles. Our panelists emphasized that hiring more people of color in high-up positions ensures that POC creators have advocates who understand their struggles and advocate for equitable pay.

Emmy, a creator and agency professional, highlighted the importance of addressing unconscious biases in the industry. Noting how agencies should communicate regularly with creators, especially Black creators, to ensure fair compensation. Black communities often engage more with content from Black creators, indicating the importance of recognizing this increased engagement.

This insightful conversation acted as a reminder that there is still work to be done to break racial biases in the Influencer Marketing space and beyond, to ensure people of color are not only valued for their contributions but compensated fairly too. 

If you want to speak about this topic in more detail, reach out to us at to continue the conversation. 

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