Building a Truly Inclusive Global Startup Community
by Patrice Perkins, Director of Capital Region NY Chapter and a Leader in Startup Grind’s DEI Steering Committee
If this year — 2020 — has taught us anything, it’s that in spite of extreme difficulties we still can and will come together as a nation, and even stretch our arms globally when the situation becomes dire enough.
COVID-19 caused us to realize our vulnerability and the fragility of life. It also taught us that in spite of (or perhaps because of) adversity, we have the ability and greatness to shine even in our darkest moments. We learned this year that under extreme duress the humanity that connects us can prove stronger than a difference in pigmentation.
History has shown that we know how to repel invaders. This time, the invaders were not just the seemingly insurmountable ravages of COVID-19, but also the rampant racial unrest caused by the increased prevalence of murder of Black men and women by police officers and others — finally reaching a boiling point with the murder of George Floyd.
2020 is the year when violence and the harrowing of COVID-19 combined to create an upsurge of indignation and an outcry that broke through racial lines. We began to hear from strong unified voices who said: “Enough is enough.” And this time the voices were not just Black voices — they came from many different races. In 2020 we learned that an outraged internal cry can not only be heard around the world, but can be taken up and amplified into a global voice invoking and demanding change.
As the largest active global startup community, Startup Grind is fervently committed to be a part of that change. A year ago, Startup Grind decided to initiate its first task force: the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee. The DEI committee is tasked with developing initiatives,
programming, and identifying opportunities around the topics of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
What is DEI? Diversity includes how people differ, encompassing the different characteristics that make one individual or group different from another. Equity is the fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all people, while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of some groups. Inclusion is the act of creating environments in which any individual or group can be and feel welcomed, respected, supported, and valued to fully participate.
Through education and empowerment, we strive to improve how the organizational culture surrounding issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion are embraced and communicated to global partners and stakeholders. We aim to help chapter directors understand how to incorporate diversity and inclusiveness in local chapter events to help foster a more equitable startup ecosystem using the Startup Grind values of connect, educate, and inspire.
In light of the current national situation, on June 16th 2020 the HQ Team organized and set up a global community event with directors to provide a forum for discussion regarding DEI as well as the #BlackLivesMatter movement. The DEI Steering Committee led and facilitated this initial
discussion. It will certainly take more than one conversation to explore how we as individuals, and Startup Grind as an organization, can find ways to address the systemic racial inequity and racially motivated violence that continues to plague the United States and elsewhere, but that initial
conversation was a start.
Our goal as the DEI Steering Committee is to be the standard bearers for this and other topics around Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. We will have continued discussions and — hopefully with increasing input from our global community — devise ways to take action. We’re grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the changes that are taking place and to be a part of helping Startup Grind recognize and celebrate diversity of its members and global
directors, and also helping to bring diversity into our communities around the world.
Change can always occur when there is a willingness to thoughtfully examine what currently exists, acknowledge when change is necessary, and then being sensitive and courageous enough to move forward to effect those changes. That’s where we are currently. We are listening. We are learning. We are committed to help move the needle on becoming a diverse, equitable and inclusive organization.
In spite of our current numbers (600 cities and 120+ countries), we are nimble and agile enough to make change. The process has already begun, evidenced by awareness, interest in, and a willingness to change. We’re fortunate that we have a founder and a leadership team that empowers us to make what may sometimes be uncomfortable and even hard choices. Change is in many ways like giving birth. Typically, birth is (wildly!) uncomfortable and messy. But beauty and new life are the result on the other side.
So, we invite you to stay tuned as we are in the process of change — growing and birthing new ways to change for the better as an organization. We don’t want to only be the largest active global startup community, but we want to be one that’s diverse, equitable, and inclusive. To reflect upon and respond to input from you, our global community.
This post was written by Patrice Perkins. Patrice runs our Capital Region NY chapter and is also a leader in Startup Grind’s DEI community.
If you’re interested in getting notified about Startup Grind’s DEI initiatives & learning about new opportunities for our global community members, we’d love to get to know you. Just fill out our survey here and we’ll be in touch about future events.