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Why we’re committed to diversity:

Regardless of who you are or where you are from, there is an UP program for you (and if you think there isn’t, we want to help you create one).

UP Global Community Leaders from over 75 countries around the world gather each year to share best practices and celebrate entrepreneurship.
UP Global Community Leaders from over 75 countries around the world gather each year to share best practices and celebrate entrepreneurship. Photo taken at this year’s UP Summit in Las Vegas, NV, USA.

Recently, there’s been an ongoing dialogue around UP Global’s efforts to draw a more diverse population into the UP community. We realized there may be some confusion around the goals of these efforts and programs, and we wanted to take this opportunity to clarify our goals and to advance the conversation.

UP Global exists to empower and serve entrepreneurial communities around the world. A critical piece of this mission involves supporting the growth of more diverse networks, communities, and startup teams – because we know that more diverse communities are stronger and more innovative.  At the company level, it’s been found that a more equalized gender distribution yields a 30 percent higher return on IPO’s.  A 2011 Forbes study found that “diversity breeds creativity and innovation. Of 321 large global enterprises surveyed, 85 percent agreed or strongly agreed that diversity is crucial to fostering innovation in the workplace.”

We believe that this same philosophy can and should be applied at the community level as well. More backgrounds with better representation will result in a greater sense of innovation; with more perspectives at the table, we’re confident that new solutions and ideas will be fostered and made possible through entrepreneurship.

Thriving, diverse communities must be built intentionally. Diversity can mean anything from a more balanced gender ratio, a broad spectrum of ages, and it can mean that a variety of backgrounds and skills are well represented. When one of our programs has a lack of designers or developers, for example, we would consider this a deficiency in diversity. Diversity in the broadest sense at a Startup Weekend, for example, means having a balance between Developers, Designers and Business People. Diversity also includes Race, Gender and Age. This is why we are working to create balanced, diverse events – whether that means we are encouraging more designers to attend, or creating safe spaces for underserved attendees to get involved.

One of our most recent efforts to encourage diversity at the community level is our Startup Women initiative. A key piece of this initiative is the rollout of over 30 events startup_women_logo_blue_RGB-1focused on bringing more women into the entrepreneurial space – commonly known as “Womens Edition” events. These events focus on bringing in more women entrepreneurs, but they are also reliant on the presence of men in order to create a collaborative, diverse environment. Historically, these events have succeeded in bringing more female founders and entrepreneurs into the UP community at large, and both men and women have benefited from this increased level of diversity. Womens Edition events generally draw between a 60-75% female attendance rate, as opposed to the typical 20% at most Startup Weekend events. Wendy Santiano, an attendee from a past Womens Edition event, remarked, “Without Startup Weekend Women’s Edition I would still be completely lost. It was great to work with so many talented women as well as the men who accented the team perfectly.

A group photo from the 2012 Womens Edition event in Seattle. Photo: Kyle Kesterson
A group photo from the 2012 Womens Edition event in Seattle. Photo: Kyle Kesterson

Our Startup Education events also rely on a type of diversity: a powerful blend of educators, entrepreneurs, developers, designers, and policy-makers. We’ve tested other events with an emphasis on veterans, African-American youth, and high school students. Each of these events takes on a very intentional stance designed by the local community itself. UP Community Leaders understand the needs of their community best, and they work to create the right type of events – with the right tone and focus – that will most benefit the growth of the community. We think our approach of empowered communities and specialized programs is working, based on new communities established and event attendance.

Regardless of where you live and what your professional or personal background is, we believe there is an UP program for you. If you’d like to attend or organize an event that encourages community-level diversity, let us know! We will help make it happen.

Our next Startup Women event is in Seattle this weekend. You can purchase tickets here. We hope to see you there!

Claire Topalian Claire Topalian
(@clairetopalian) Blog, Professional Writing, Communications and PR Specialist. I craft compelling, mission-driven content for companies and individuals that amplifies brand awareness, fosters community, and drives engagement. My experience includes work with tech startups, major corporations, and international non-profits. @clairetopalian