D&I 101: Back to Basics

Before talking about Diversity & Inclusion (D&I), we need to know what these two terms mean. An analogy often used to explain D&I is to think of it as a dance. Diversity is being invited to the dance, whereas inclusion is hearing your favorite music being played or feeling comfortable enough to dance.


So let’s explore the difference between the two a bit more in-depth.

Diversity refers to the existence of different characteristics in a group of people. These characteristics could be anything that makes us unique, such as our cognitive skills and personality traits, along with the things that shape our identity (e.g., race, age, gender, religion, sexual orientation, cultural background). Learn more about diversity here.

On the other hand, inclusion is the factor enabling a diverse group of people to feel comfortable and safe to bring their full selves to the public space. These factors could include harassment policies at work or using non-traditional holidays as free days.

So diversity is about the characteristics of the group. Inclusion is about the factors that influence the behavior of the group. To read more about diversity vs. inclusion, read this article by Workable.

Know your numbers

Now we know the basics, we can move on to the tools that can help you feel more confident as you take your first steps towards meaningful conversations in D&I. It is fundamental to know why D&I is an important topic, and this is where statistics about the current state of D&I come into play.

One of the leading UK VC firms, Atomico, has become a thought leader on the topic of D&I and have created a very detailed report on the state of D&I in Europe.

Start your path

Now that you’re aware of numbers around D&I in the workforce, it’s good to look at your own company and perhaps carry out an internal audit. This will help you identify the specific challenges your company faces in D&I and set goals to overcome them. Define how many people of color and other minorities you aim to have in your workforce and higher-level positions and communicate these goals to your managers.

Setting D&I goals is an essential part of the process. But your efforts shouldn’t stop there, as it can lead to stereotyping and tokenism, this HBR article reports. And look at the other systems that could factor into D&I challenges, such as testing your recruitment tools to see if there is any discrimination in how your algorithm eliminates candidates.

Some parting notes for our current situation: The global economy and the startup ecosystem are facing the unprecedented challenges due to the pandemic. It becomes even more important not to let your D&I goals get out of sight during this time. This FastCompany article details how little progress we’ve made in funding female-led companies even in times of boom, so an uncertain time like this could be a major setback for D&I. Instead, try to see this time of collective anxiety as an opportunity for fundamental change.