Diversity in startups
Over 50 business owners in Austin have signed a diversity initiative called The Startup and Inclusion Pledge. Firstly, the pledge calls for all signees to make a commitment to diversity in startups. For example, diverse hiring standards. Secondly, to commit to unconscious bias training and a diverse workforce.
The pledge also calls for business leaders that sign it to make its diversity metrics public, enforce discrimination policies, and make their commitment to the pledge public.
The goal of this pledge is to encourage companies to hire more diversely. More women, people of color and people in the LGBT community. Stephen Straus created the pledge. He’s a former venture capitalist at Austin Ventures and CEO of KungFu.AI, which works with businesses to build artificial intelligence services.
“In my nine years at Austin Ventures, I can count on one hand the number of pitches that I heard from an under-represented person—a woman, a person of color, or someone who identifies as LGBTQ—as the founder or CEO,” Straus admitted in a press release.
“Stephen is doing some very important work,” said Joah Spearman, founder of Austin’s Localeur. “Ultimately, any conversation about diversity and inclusion in business is a conversation about acknowledging both the historic discrimination that has taken place in corporate board rooms and investment communities and accepting the proven, financial outcomes for businesses whom make inclusion a key ingredient to their growth,” Spearman continued.
How companies are participating
One such company that has publicly shown its commitment to the pledge is Outbound Engine.
This startup’s employees got together to create a monthly meet-up where guest speakers lead discussions on diversity and race in the workplace over pizza and drinks.
The startup’s employees also launched an employee diversity program, called Tribe. Tribe helps them coordinate meetings and discussions where employees can ask questions on related matters.
Another startup that has exhibited its commitment to the pledge is OwnLocal. OwnLocal involves a team of 20 diverse employees in the hiring of new employees. So, each of the 20 employees weigh in on each job candidate. Consequently, the company holds their opinions in the same regard as they do the CEO.
“Diversity attracts diversity. By having a company culture that celebrates individuality, employees feel comfortable and are more likely to recommend us to their friends,” said Lloyd Armbrust, founder and CEO of OwnLocal.
Plea from pledge creator
It’s quite evident that Austin is spearheading a push among Texas startups to not just champion diversity, but to actively participate in its implementation in the workplace.
“We can make Austin the most committed and diverse startup ecosystem in America. We have that opportunity in front of us right now,” wrote Straus in his press release.
“But we need you to take the pledge. We need a show of strength. Please visit the website and take the pledge today,” Straus pleaded.