Diversity & Inclusion is a vital part of any modern workplace, but it’s about more than just policies, headcount and ticking boxes. Companies which place Diversity & Inclusion at the heart of their organisation seek to understand and respect each team member’s unique needs, views and potential. They actively work to create an environment that welcomes every employee at every step of their journey; helping them to thrive and to be their best self at work. In turn, these companies will earn deep trust, respect and commitment from their employees; improving business outcomes.
Actively working to build a diverse and inclusive company is important as not all tech founders are born equal. A recent report by Extend Ventures found that from 2009 to 2019, Black founders – in particular Black female founders – experienced severe venture capital underfunding, securing just 0.02% of the amount invested in 2,002 companies. Inequality isn’t just defined on the basis of race and ethnicity, factors such as class also play a role. The same report found that just over 42% of UK venture capital at seed stage went to a founding team with at least one member from an elite educational background. Therefore it’s important to acknowledge early on that diversity isn’t about tackling each individual characteristic alone, it’s about creating collective inclusion for all.
However, when we spoke to founders while developing this toolkit, we heard that the “get rich quick” mentality of investors makes investing in D&I challenging. We also heard that diversity isn’t regarded as a “quick win” alongside the old adage that investment is “all about hockey stick graphs”. We heard from one founder: “it’s like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – survival is the only thing that matters – high purpose issues are low on the agenda.”
Seeing D&I as a high purpose issue is a short-term view. The investment landscape is slowly changing – particularly at a public company level. Major investors have issued warnings to companies to increase ethnic diversity of their senior teams in order to retain investment and relevance. This will start to trickle down and trickle out into other funds over time.
What’s more, in the context and climate of building back better post Covid, D&I is starting to be linked closely to survival. Not just by investment funds, but by customers and stakeholders at large. Some founders will link these efforts to broader environmental and sustainability goals (ESG), some will develop specific programmes and some will try to ignore diversity & inclusion altogether.
Those in the latter camp might find themselves being left behind. Research from networking group People Like Us and Censuswide found that 3 in 5 people from Black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds in the UK say that the momentum of diversity has fizzled out in their workplace since it was in the public eye in summer 2020, compared to 3 in 10 White working professionals.
At Tech Nation, we believe that we have a responsibility to keep the momentum going by offering actionable insights and guidance. We still have a long way to go for the tech sector in the UK to be truly diverse & inclusive, which is why we’ve created this toolkit, to help our founders scale diverse and inclusive companies. We plan to continually update this toolkit with new, relevant resources & case studies spotlighting examples of companies in our network who have created positive change with D&I initiatives. If you have a story to share, we encourage you to get in touch.
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