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Nine tips to encourage diversity in your startup

By November 19, 2020September 20th, 2023No Comments6 min read

Diversity in the workplace refers to having differences within your teams. Differences in backgrounds, opinions, experiences, and characteristics. Having a diverse workplace doesn’t stop at hiring people from all walks of life, but aims to provide an inclusive and equitable environment for people of all genders, nationalities, abilities etc.

The lack of diversity in many sectors is problematic and we should all be addressing this as a priority. Across the Tech industry the problem runs deep. According to one report, just 22% of Tech directors are women, and only 19% of Tech workers overall are women [1]. When we look at the FinTech sector, it doesn’t get much better, with 69% of FinTech boards reported as entirely male [2] and women thought to make up just 29% of the FinTech employee base [3].

When we look at more widely underrepresented groups, the situation remains the same. Just 15% of those working in tech are from Black and minority ethnic backgrounds [4]. Shockingly, just 1% of VC-funded startup founders are Black [5].

If you recognize some of these trends in your business, following the below tips might help you make a step in the right direction of improving diversity in your start up. 

Acknowledge differences

We are all different, having lived our own experiences and created our opinions from that life. By acknowledging these differences we provide a more inclusive environment and make individuals feel valued. A recent study found that companies with diverse management teams have 19% higher revenue due to innovation. If diversity means having a difference of experiences, ideas and approaches, it’s no wonder that building a team that can tackle problems from different angles will ultimately make the solution more robust and optimised. Therefore, for FinTechs and startups that rely on innovation for growth, diversity in key for improving their bottom line.

Make work flexible

If the last year has taught us anything, it’s that tech startups are some of the most agile businesses in the world. We are thriving where some industries are collapsing. Offering flexible working arrangements not only shows you trust and value your employees, but also means that you can be more inclusive for working parents, anyone requiring appointments for physical or mental health, and in some cases means you can open your hiring pool to a worldwide market, bringing in a host of different experiences and views.

an above picture of a woman working on a laptop with a plant next to her

Lead by example

Make sure that diversity is championed as a business and that this is clear to all internal and external partners. Be clear on what is accepted and what is not, communicate actions that are being taken to ensure these values are important to the business. In order for staff of all levels to adopt any change, it must be started at the top and discussed openly at all levels.

Accommodate physical differences

How accommodating is your workplace to people of different abilities? You may have step free access to your office and building, but are your workspaces accommodating? Are your desks adjustable, have you got audio-visual fire alarms in place, or are your kitchens and common areas all structurally appropriate for your staff? In order to encourage diverse abilities you need to be able to accommodate for people of all abilities. Ask your staff what would make them feel better accommodated and make reasonable adjustments where possible.

Hold people accountable

Any new policies that you introduce must include ramifications, or disciplinary action, for failure to follow the diversity policy. To encourage an inclusive workplace, you need to give victims of discrimination a process to report abuses and develop a protocol to address them. The protocol usually includes speaking with both parties before giving a written warning and perhaps coaching to the guilty party. Some companies have levels of discipline depending on how egregious the action is.

Educate yourself and others

Formal or informal training is a great way to educate yourself and your staff on how to champion diversity in your startup. As well as some brilliant facilitators out there, encouraging diversity does not end when you leave the office. Read. Listen. Watch. There are so many resources and educators out there to learn from.

Measure progress

Set goals and metrics that can be measured and therefore improved. If you are starting from point 0, you need to acknowledge that change takes time and therefore should set realistic goals. You might measure your progress through internal feedback, quotas or by hiring a company to measure your diversity index.

a laptop screen showing colorful graphs

Learn from your mistakes

Nobody is expected to get it right first time. The important part of this is to learn from your mistakes and improve each time. By listening to your employees and understanding how to ensure your actions are making a difference, rather than just being performative, you will build a more inclusive and equitable culture for your startup.

Ask for help

Many startups don’t have a Diversity Expert as part of the team in the early years. As CEO or founder, you are not expected to have an in depth understanding of how to implement a meaningful DEI strategy into your business. Ask for help. It’s better to hire an expert who’s job is to do this to enact real change. As part of our Key Client’s Programme we have partnered with Diversity Experts that work in the start up and tech space. If you’d like to know more, or for us to facilitate an introduction, please get in touch.

We are hosting our first virtual roundtable on the 15th December covering ‘Why Diversity sits at the heart of FinTech products’ with leaders in the FinTech community. If you’d like to get involved email our Marketing Manager, Chelcie, to get added to the attendee list.