Remember that diversity and inclusion are two very different things. Everyone may be in the room but who actually gets a seat at the table?
The same goes for investing.
Even if you have a number of diverse startups in your portfolio, is the amount of funding given to diverse vs non-diverse startups equal? Are you providing the same amount of business opportunities, connections and exposure to all your startups?
Actions you can take
Have the conversation with your team
The first and most important step is to have an open, honest conversation with your team about unconscious bias and how it can impact diversity and inclusion in your firm.
But, keep in mind, this can be a highly sensitive topic. If not framed in the right way, you could get a range of different reactions from indifference to defensiveness.
To avoid this, you need to create a safe environment in which people know they’re not on trial and won’t be accused of being sexist or prejudiced. Bias is inherent in everyone and can prevent us from reaching our goals. The question is, what can we as an organization do to overcome it?
Check out this great talk about unconscious bias from Google’s Director of People Analytics: Unconscious Bias @ Work | Google Ventures (2014)
If you don’t feel prepared to lead this discussion yourself, consider inviting a professional speaker.
Institutionalize Diversity & Inclusion
It’s not just about a one-off discussion. According to a study by inclusion platform Crescendo, 79% of diversity and inclusion staff said their D&I program didn’t work because it wasn’t integrated into employees’ day to day.
Now that you’ve joined the #Fundright Movement, why not integrate your diversity targets into your team’s KPIs? This will send a clear signal that your commitment to bringing greater diversity and inclusion isn’t just a nice to have, it’s a bottom line priority.
Finally, keep the dialogue going. Create an environment in which people feel safe speaking up when they experience bias in the workplace. Employees and new hires need to know that they won’t receive backlash when voicing their experiences. These resources can help you:
Platform: Why do diversity and inclusion programs fail?
Article: How to Speak Up If You See Bias at Work (HBR, 2017)
Attract more diverse candidates
Rethink the messages you’re sending on your website and through your job ads. Whether we realize it or not, studies show that the language we use can either attract or discourage potential candidates from even applying. The same goes for the images we’re using.
Check out these tools that can help you remove biased language from your website and recruitment materials:
Along with inclusive language and images, don’t forget to remove any physical barriers that may prevent candidates with disabilities from pitching or applying for a job at your firm. Read more about how to create an inclusive work environment for people with disabilities here:
Article: Disability inclusion in the workplace: removing the barriers to finding top talent
Use structured/standard processes for assessing candidates
Whether you’re hiring new talent or you’re interviewing potential startups for your portfolio, one way to help you overcome bias is by using a structured interview process.
This will help you stay objective and eliminate ‘hunches’ as much as possible from your decision-making process. Want to find out more about how other #fundright members are doing this?
Help your portfolio companies improve diversity & inclusion
While you may have introduced diversity and inclusion metrics into your own organization, have you considered how you can help the startups you invest in become more diverse and inclusive?
A great resource for improving diversity and inclusion in the startup world, Project Include, also has some recommendations for how VCs can make an impact.
They suggest setting diversity targets for portfolio companies and helping them create more inclusive recruitment and hiring processes (particularly at the senior level). Read more here.