At Vitalize and IrishAngels, when formulating our organizational diversity goals, we took time to dive into our data to more fully understand what we’ve done well and where we can improve.

The good news?

  • We weren’t starting from ground zero. The launch of our Diversity Committee two years ago set the groundwork for initial analyses of our founders’ demographics, the diversity of our investor base, and the chronology of our deal flow over time.
  • While there was a lack of diverse investments in the early years of the organization, the establishment of the Diversity Committee set into motion positive changes. From 2013–2017, only 15% of the companies invested in were led by a female founder and only 18% were led by a founder of color. From 2018 to the present, those numbers have nearly doubled, with 34% of portfolio companies in the last three years led by a female founder and 34% led by a founder of color. We additionally monitor the percentage of companies with an underrepresented founder of color (Black, LatinX, Indigenous), and have seen an increase in representation as well, from 9% in our early years to 22% of our investments in the last three years.

What could be improved?

  • Our data was fundamentally flawed. Our team had ascribed race and gender to our staff, investors, and portfolio company founders, allowing for errors, omissions, and assumptions.
  • Our investor group is more white and male than national angel group averages. While our female membership has doubled over the last seven years, the percentage of investors of color have hovered historically between 3% and 6%.
  • While the establishment of our Diversity Committee in 2018 had undoubtedly made an impact, we weren’t as clear on how to hold ourselves accountable as we should have been. We needed to make accountability measures foundational in our DEI work moving forward.

Here are our first steps towards continuing to make progress:

  • Vitalize will begin asking our founders and investors to self-identify their race and gender identities. We look forward to getting a more accurate hold on the representative status of our organization and portfolio, and baking the importance of strong data collection into our model moving forward.
  • We’ve enhanced our recruitment strategy to more intentional and engaged outreach to women and/or people of color. There needs to be a diversity of voices and perspectives among our investors that are writing the checks, and a homogeneous group limits our capacity to ask smart questions and make the best investment decisions.
  • We’ve added accountability and transparency. Quarterly checkpoints include a review of our co-investor relationships, deal pipeline, check size, and membership versus our goals. We’re reporting out on these numbers to our Board of Directors, Diversity Committee, and all investors in our group on a quarterly basis. We are also making this information available to any prospective members wishing to join us.

When reflecting on our data journey, analytics manager Julie Parrilla points to the growth of a single spreadsheet as a fitting metaphor. “When we first started out, in my mind I thought it was simple: capture gender, ethnicity, performance. And as we went forward, more questions continued to arise: what about initial check size? round size? are patterns changing over time?” After months, Parrilla points to the ballooning size of the spreadsheet, and the layers upon layers added to the analysis as members of our team, our Board, and our committee dug more deeply into the data. We know there is much more work to be done, and while proud of some of the improvements we have seen in the past few weeks, we are more energized than ever to continue making and measuring progress towards our DEI goals and commitments.