Every fortnight, we hand over the blog to one of the London Shapers, to give you a flavour of what they do, how they think and what's really going on in our hearts and minds. Today's piece comes from Yvonne Bajela, who is a Principal at Impact X Capital Partners.
In recent years many organisations have sought to implement diversity and inclusion policies. However, what has struck me is the change seems to be slow coming.
Having worked in the venture capital industry over the last few years, the lack of diversity within the industry is one that I am all too familiar with. Put into context, only 13% of decision makers within the VC industry are females, and for ethnic minorities, the figures are even more dire.
Up until recently, the conversations on diversity and inclusion have centred on drawing attention to the challenges, with no real material results coming from those conversations in the majority of cases. While having these conversations is a step in the right direction, firms need to be accountable and stop talking about the importance of diversity and start acting on it.
Although the technology industry may not come to mind when thinking about how the issue of diversity and inclusion can be addressed, there are in fact great examples which can be drawn upon from the tech industry. Below are three important initiatives and a few examples of steps which can be taken to initiate change:
1) Identify the bias within the company
Unconscious bias is when we make a judgement and decision about people or situations based on unobserved biases. Within the venture capital industry, one that is driven by decision making, research shows investors are inherently bias to investing in what they know or in teams that they have similarities with. Equally, bias can be seen in the work place where people may automatically assume a female won’t be as good at the job as a male counterpart.
To address unconscious bias in the work place, Google introduced a workshop on unconscious bias and its impact in the workplace as a requirement for its 60,000 staff globally. Understanding what unconscious bias, one may have and addressing it head-on is a great way to tackle the issue to enable leaders to become better decision makers. Google workshop is a great example of how leaders must look to eliminate or reduce bias in organisations, particularly in the sourcing and evaluating of potential hires. Since the workshops were introduced, Google’s employees have reported a notable change in the company’s efforts to develop a more inclusive culture.
2) Address the challenges and set goals publicly
One of the biggest things we can do is hold ourselves to account by creating the change we want to see. Although the topic around diversity and inclusion is one that can be considered awkward, with the fear of saying something inappropriate. I believe that as long as companies have good intent to act on addressing diversity issues, being open and transparent about it can accelerate progress. One such example is Pinterest, which took a bold stand in the push to increase diversity in the technology industry in 2015. At the time, the company set out to be transparent in setting ambitious goals to hire more women and minorities and in doing so it made the company’s management publicly accountable to the goals set. And in 2018, the company announced they had managed to achieve those goals, with 47% of staff being female and 14% being from underrepresented backgrounds.
Although the technology industry has a long way to go, Pinterest is a great example of how companies being transparent can help to initiate change and also provide accountability. To take that further, senior partners and directors could become personally accountable by having D&I objectives linked with their performance.
3) Treat it as part of the wider company strategy
For many companies, diversity and inclusion is often seen as a side project within the HR department. Having a diversity and inclusion strategy should not be seen as a side project but instead it should play a key part of any company’s core strategy as an essential ingredient to success. After all, having a diverse team allows companies to cater for and connect with a broader range of customers, which competitors that lack diversity may find difficult to do so. Furthermore, having an inclusive culture ensures companies can attract and maintain a broad range of exceptional diverse talent.