Originally published in the Huffington Post.
A 2013 Harvard Business Review post points out that “companies replete with both inherent and acquired diversity, we find, out-innovate and outperform the competition.”
It is this type of perspective – the one that insists that diversity is something we should look to as a strong advantage in the workplace – that is marking a turning point in the way that startups think about the key to their innovative paths and the overall success of their teams. As more people recognize the benefits – not just the social impact – of encouraging diversity within communities, markets and companies, we could be seeing a mainstream shift in which more industry leaders begin turning to underrepresented entrepreneurs and markets in the name of opportunity. Ultimately, attention to diversity in the startup space should not be looked to with a charitable perspective, but as a smart, strategic choice for the future success of new companies.
Here’s what thought leaders are saying:
“If technology is designed mostly by white males, who make up roughly half our population, we’re missing out on the innovation, solutions, and creativity that a broader pool of talent can bring to the table,” says Kimberly Bryant, founder of Black Girls Code.
Bryant also suggests that industry leaders pay attention to the often disregarded points on a market bell curve: “In many cases on the front end of this bell curve you may find a diversity of consumers since African-Americans, women, and people of color have been shown to be early adopters across multiple technology platforms and social media.”
Angela Benton, founder of the NewMe Accelerator, says; “True diversity not only includes people from different races but also from different backgrounds and with different experiences. It can be the difference between innovating and not. The beautiful thing about innovation is that it moves industries forward, often times taking standard ways of doing things in other industries or cultures and applying them in new ways. It’s only natural – and necessary – that startup cultures begin to think this way in order to stay truly innovative and avoid the prevalent ‘me-too’ culture it sometimes is known for.”
“Diversity in anything is important. In technology, specifically, it gives an opportunity to the masses to participate in business that is shaping the economy of the world.” -MC Hammer (rapper and co-founder of Dancejam, AlchemistMMA, and WireDOO).
“Our world is not homogeneous, so why should startups and the products/services that are being created be so vanilla? We need to be open to different cultures, perspectives, voices, and opinions so that we may better serve the needs of the multicultural communities of America.” – Jesse Martinez, cofounder of Spark America, a non profit that also consists of the Latino Startup Alliance
“Many people describe entrepreneurs as scratching their own itch. So the more diverse our entrepreneurs are, the more innovative the kinds of companies they start.” – Freada Kapor Klein, Partner, Kapor Capital, in an interview at FOCUS100 2013.
“Without diversity, the life experiences we bring to an engineering problem are limited. As a consequence, we may not find the best engineering solution.” – William A. Wulf, President, National Academy of Engineering.
“In the face of ample evidence that diverse workforces produce better results than homogenous ones, we can make an argument for diversity as both a business imperative and a moral imperative, but we will not make headway within the technology industry until we, in greater numbers, loudly challenge the notion that thoughtfulness and diversity are things that we don’t have time for.” – Jessica Lawrence, HBR
“As Stacy-Marie Ishmael of The Financial Times astutely pointed out, if a startup is not thoughtful about what type of organization they want to build when they are three white men, before they know it they will be forty five white men, and they will wonder why they are not attracting any significant numbers of women or people of color to work at their company.” – HBR: “The Signals That Make Startups So Homogenous”