Fearless Fund secures a major victory in the attack on venture capital funding for women of color.
In an August lawsuit, Fearless Fund, led by Arian Simone (CEO) and Ayana Parsons (COO), was accused of “explicit racial exclusion” by establishing a grant program “open only to Black females,” according to The Washington Post. The lawsuit was brought against the fund by legal activist Edward Blum and his American Alliance for Equal Rights group.
Blum had previously challenged race-based affirmative action policies through his group Students for Fair Admissions and won in the Supreme Court in June 2023, per The New York Times. In his most recent lawsuit against Fearless Fund, he alleges it was in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 because it awarded $20,000 grants, mentorship, and additional services to Black women-owned businesses instead of maintaining “race neutrality.”
“We had one clear vision in mind,” Simone said during an official press conference in response to the lawsuit on Aug. 10. “That was to change the game for women of color entrepreneurs. Our rationale was simple. These women are the most founded yet the least funded. They’re starting businesses at a much higher rate than any other demographic. Yet, they lack access to capital, access to resources, access to TV networks, and the education needed to scale their businesses.”
Despite pushback, Simone and Parsons have remained headstrong in their vision. Now, the founders can let out a sigh of relief. On Tuesday, Sept. 26, U.S. District Judge Thomas W. Thrash ruled in their favor. The Washington Post reports the judge stated the grant program is considered charitable giving, protected under the First Amendment.
“Women of color continue to face significant barriers in obtaining access to capital,” Parsons and Simone said in a statement, according to the outlet. “We are very pleased with the court’s decision to deny” the “plaintiff’s attempt to shut down our grant program and look forward to continuing to advance our critical mission.”