A holistic approach to diversity

Founders may understand the importance of having a diverse workforce and inclusive culture but putting it into action may be tricky. Their days fill up with troubleshooting product improvements and issues, finding new customers, hiring talent, managing the finances, and many other things.While a creating the right culture in a small team can come with its challenges, it is a lot easier than when teams grow exponentially in size in a short period of time. Coincidentally, that is what happens at many start-ups, which is why having the mindset and certain processes in place from the outset means less of a headache when a start-up expands.

  • Commitment from the top means approaching diversity holistically, starting from the top or founding team and being part of the values of the company. Regardless of the make-up of that founding team, their mindset on diversity influences the future trajectory of the company completely. Hence, it’s important to start early on.
  • Setting up a task force is a great way for diversity and inclusion to be embedded at every step of a start-ups journey and help deliver on any KPIs. The task force should have a representative from a cross-section of employees, consider things such as offices, functions, age, gender, etc. This not only makes sure all areas are accountable for the success of any policies in place, but that different teams have a say and as such are supportive of the initiatives.
  • Identify the tools (DiversityTech stack) and policies that will help deliver your diversity and inclusion targets. For example, will success include making sure there is a parental leave or an anti-harassment policy in place, or will it include providing employees with mental health support to avoid burnout, among other things.
  • Make sure you can track, monitor, and report on KPIs, otherwise you won’t know if the tech stack or policies are working. Measurement is also a great tool to help you find where you may have the biggest gaps or may flag a potential issue.

With all this in mind, here are some immediate steps that start-ups starting from scratch can take. To help you visualise the steps, we illustrated them using real-life examples of how we do D&I at Nauta Capital.*

  1. Ownership: define a team/task force or person that is responsible within the founding team to drive diversity and inclusion forward. We have a small task force of 4-5 individuals, representative of our offices, job profiles and seniority - including Partners – as well as gender and ethnicity.
  2. Diversity Statement: Publish your company's commitment to diversity internally, on the website and in job ads. You can find our diversity statement here. In addition, we always make sure to include it regardless of where we post the job i.e. on our website or elsewhere.
  3. Code of Conduct: Clearly communicating a zero tolerance for discrimination and harassment at the workplace or towards your employees helps set the tone for your company values. Because we think this is extremely important, we have an abridged version of our policy on our website.
  4. KPI Tracking: Start with gender tracking such as the number of women in the firm, founding team and leadership positions. Not only do we track gender within our teams, we also actively track that in our portfolio companies and share this regularly with our stakeholders.

There are many things a start-up can do to support diversity and inclusion within their “four” walls, the above are just a springboard for many other things.Because we know time is precious and we love technology, our next article discusses the DiversityTech that can support your start-up on your journey.

* We are not a start-up, but in size we are like many start-ups that we meet out in the market.