Thinking inclusively is an imperative

A look at what startups are doing to address the lack of women in technology leadership

Greg Becker, CEO, Silicon Valley Bank

The innovation economy has a long way to go to achieve gender parity, but there are reasons to be optimistic. In our Startup Outlook 2018 survey, 57 percent of US startups report that they have no women in the C-suite, and 71 percent have no women on their boards. These stats are better in the UK and China. At the same time, 41 percent of US startups say they have a program in place to increase the number of women in their leadership ranks, which is a jump from the 25 percent who said the same last year.

Improving the ratio of women in tech — and in leadership roles — is very much on the minds of founders, investors, employees, industry watchers and influencers. One SVB client recently told us:

“We can’t create the best technology solutions if the teams building them don’t represent the public using them. Diversity is both a social justice and a commonsense issue — especially in an increasingly global economy.”

We asked startups to describe their efforts. They tell us they are setting and tracking diversity goals, actively coaching employees for leadership and encouraging industry involvement in female-focused organizations. When it comes to hiring, they report that they are changing the way job descriptions are written and how they are recruiting and conducting interviews to mitigate potential unconscious bias.

There are no excuses for how we got here, but we do see business leaders, individuals and organizations working hard to raise awareness and make progress toward a level playing field. That’s one of the reasons why I am optimistic. For the most part, our clients are always looking at what’s next, what’s ahead and how to improve on the status quo. With that mindset and a willingness to think differently and have candid conversation, we believe that the innovation sector has the opportunity to change.

Importantly, we should all be grateful to the brave women who have come forward to share their experiences with discrimination, sexism and harassment. They are fueling much-needed conversation and momentum to improve the workplace for all in the innovation sector.

For our part, we can’t say that we have this completely figured out, either. We are working every day to ensure that we are constantly learning and fostering an environment in which our employees can do their best work. And we’re committed to working toward gender parity in our own leadership ranks. We focus on employee awareness, training and education, leadership development, hiring, strategic partnerships and an open-door approach that encourages our employees to raise issues and openly discuss them. We backstop that with policies and a code of conduct based on respect.

There is much work to be done, and it starts with each business leader making inclusion, equal representation and diversity an imperative.

View the full series of Silicon Valley Bank’s Startup Outlook reports HERE for a closer look at US, UK and Chinese startups’ views on hiring, fundraising and public policy issues.

Silicon Valley Bank

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Helping innovative companies and their investors move bold ideas forward, fast. Financial services for companies in innovation centers around the world.

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