Why Diversity Is Needed In Startups
Diverse people are sorely underrepresented in the business world — particularly in startups. Imagine all the ideas that we’re missing out on because of this massive lack of diversity. Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of focusing on diversity after the startup phase, but it’s much easier to start strong than it is to improve upon established weaknesses. If you turn your attention now to increasing diversity in your startup company, you will have a sturdy foundation from which to grow.
I attend many competitions to learn about new business opportunities. I still have yet to attend a single pitch event where one of the judges has been a woman of color. I wonder if the businesses selected for investment would be different if there was a different representation on the selection committees. That said, it’s important to learn why diversity is essential to startups.
According to Scientific American, being exposed to diversity can boost creativity in the workplace. Think about it: Diversity is all about individual differences. How much can you learn from people who are exactly like you? Sure, you can learn a little, but your horizons really begin to broaden when you surround yourself with people who are different from you. You will learn more about culture, relationships, business, innovation, religion and philosophy.
The people we choose to surround ourselves with — both personally and in business — ultimately help shape our personalities and the way we think. Having unique perspectives in the marketplace will enable companies to refine their unique selling propositions and pivot when necessary. When I was completing my undergraduate degree in computer engineering at UCSC, most of the students in my classes were from China. When I traveled to China and visited a university, most of the students couldn’t believe that I was studying engineering. They thought that I was a singer, tennis player or TV star. I learned firsthand how I was perceived in their world, and I understood that this thinking shaped my treatment in theirs. After this experience, I was able to relate more with peers in the technical space. As a result, I truly believe that exposure and immersion is a crucial way to learn about differences.
I already mentioned that diversity breeds creativity, but the benefits don’t stop there: Scientific American also noted that diversity makes us smarter. Since startups constantly need to respond to the shift in trends, being smarter will help startups stay relevant. Creativity breeds innovation. Innovation leads to revolution.
Consider your school career: If you were a bright child, you probably had a hard time focusing when the teacher taught subjects you already knew inside and out. Many gifted children end up getting in trouble for goofing off in class instead of sitting still and learning like everyone else. Why? Because they aren’t challenged. It’s difficult to maintain focus and to gain new insight about topics you already know by heart. Diversity — whether it’s through gender, race, religion, age or philosophy — promotes learning. People need to be constantly challenged in order to learn new things. And you can’t be challenged if you choose to fill the positions in your startup company with people who are carbon copies of you.
Because of the increase in creativity and intelligence, diversity will also create measurable financial growth. This is something that will benefit everyone. Would L’Oréal be a leader in the cosmetics field if it had not focused on creating products for women of color? Would it have been able to create authentic, usable products if it didn’t have a diverse team guiding it to success?
The majority of people who serve in positions of authority at companies are men. But at my last consulting company, the upper-level management made a decision to change client liaisons so that they all were women. As a result of this approach, the women had a much higher success threshold than was previously achieved. The company was able to close a record number of new contracts. In this case, simply using a diverse approach allowed my employer to boost its revenue.
The Betterment Of Society As A Whole
The more we intentionally include diverse people in startups and in business, the closer we get as a society to attaining true equality. We as business owners have a responsibility to our startup companies and to the entire business world and beyond. If we lead the way by banding together to ensure that no one gets left behind, maybe we’ll make diversity in the workplace the new norm. Perhaps other businesses will follow our example and give diverse people a voice. In this way, we can all experience true equality and togetherness like our country has never seen before.
Women and other minorities need to be heard in the business world, especially in startup companies. Why not get ahead of the curve and make your startup business as diverse and inclusive as soon as possible? The benefits are endless.
About: Dr. Roshawnna Novellus is the Founder and CEO of EnrichHER, a platform created to provide funding opportunities for the vastly underserved women-led business community. Dr. Novellus has been featured in Forbes, HuffPost, Inc.com, WSJ, and Rolling Out. Roshawnna serves on the Commission on Women for the City of Atlanta, and was honored as one of the Women Who Means Business by the Atlanta Business Chronicle.