Over the past few years you would have to be living under a rock to not hear the cries on the world stage for more diversity in technology. MLK Day seemed like the perfect time to talk about this important issue.
I thought I should start with the actual definition of diversity provided by Webster’s Dictionary.
This blog post is not about how we should strive to do better because diversity in tech is good. I’m a numbers guy, and this blog post is purely about the Benjamins. Having a diverse executive team and board has proven to bring in more profits. If I told you that adding a CFO to your board would increase profitability chances by 35%, everyone would add a CFO to their board. The top publicly-traded companies with diverse boards and executive staff are 35% more likely to deliver better returns.
So, here is what I know. I have been a Sand Hill Road Venture Capitalist for over 25 years. I can tell you that the ‘old boys club’ is a real thing. I know — I was a part of it. I wasn’t intentional about it. I didn’t mean for it be that way. It was just how it was and why would I question it?
However, I can also tell you that even an old dog like me can stand up, listen, and realize that having a lack of diversity is no longer acceptable. I can no longer let it just be how it is.
I used to think Silicon Valley was all about finding the best people. But when I invested in a couple of female CEOs this past year, I noticed how differently they were treated. The investors are all male. The boards are all male. Even the conferences we attend are mostly male. In this very male world, these women were questioned and second guessed like nothing I’d ever experienced with male entrepreneurs. The first female CEO I invested in had to double the proof points and the due diligence process was way beyond the call of duty, reaching into her personal life. I finally had to say to the other investors, “What are you doing here? That’s enough.”
Once I saw it with that female CEO, I saw it happen again and again as I invested in more women. I couldn’t un-see the way the old boys club was only working for the good old boys. So I decided to do something about it.
I want to take this opportunity to say, I’m on board with diversity. I’m going to be very intentional about investing in diverse teams. I’m going to invest in CEO’s who are making diversity a priority – not just hoping it happens. I’m going push them on their hiring strategies and question them on thoughts around board diversity.
That also means that I’m going to take notice when teams are all men, or all women, or all one race, or all from one culture. Because we don’t want to lose sight that the true meaning of diversity which, as we know from our pal Webster, is the inclusion of different types of people.
And it’s a fact that investing in team diversity results in greater returns. It’s smart business to make this a top priority.
I’m also investing as a limited partner in a VC firm, 1843 Capital, that is focused on funding female entrepreneurs and bringing gender equality to the tech industry. I’ll be looking to invest in ideas outside of Silicon Valley, as I’ve talked about before, because different cultural experiences solve different problems.
Diversity wins, and it wins big time for everyone!
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” – Maya Angelou