There’s more that I can do.
It’s probably true for you too.
I attended an ELSI talk hosted by SOAR Triangle last week focused on diversity, entrepreneurship, and ultimately preparing women for success in leadership roles.
I entered expecting a powerful discussion about shattering glass ceilings and how female entrepreneurs and those from diverse backgrounds can band together to solve some of the critical challenges in the entrepreneurial landscape. Promoting ways to insist on equal pay, hiring for entrepreneurial teams, funding for female-led startups – take your pick!
What I walked away with was far more valuable.
The event hosted a set of speakers from large technology companies to small-scale startups to the president of a historically black university.
Tashni Dubroy, president of Shaw University, shared tips with business leaders and encouraged those in hiring roles to be a voice in the room. If your team doesn’t reflect the diverse environment you want to create, speak up! She tackled the racial bias against some job applicants and the hesitation to call out the pervasive lack of diversity in the technology sector.
Speakers agreed that there is a responsibility for everyone to be aware and help to offer a pathway for female entrepreneurs – everyone, man or woman, can benefit from leveling the playing field. Offering a helping hand and counsel for those who have a lot to share will ultimately positively impact your business and your human capital.
“Mentors don’t always look like you,” Dubroy said, “It’s important to find someone who will bring you to the table.”
Another guest speaker, Bill Spruill CEO of the Global Data Consortium, shared his experiences in being underestimated because he didn’t fit the mold appearance-wise in past companies. Instead of leaving those organizations on bad terms, it taught him to embrace diversity. In his current ventures, he sees diversity as an edge – it’s better, he says, to have a mix of employees who see things differently.
Still, the gap exists.
Companies with a female CEO receive roughly 3% of all venture capital invested, according to Babson College. Shrink that down to black female founders, and you’re looking at .2% of the venture capital investments from 2012 – 2014.
But there’s one thing that every one of us can do: start the conversation. The SOAR talk stressed that gender balance can only achieved when both men and women enter the conversation and bring the topic to life.
So if you look around your team, your organization, or your community and you’d like to help turn the corner on diversity …