Below are some tips for building diversity and creating an inclusive environment for everyone.
Make it a priority… from the beginning
Building a diverse team is always easier when you start from the beginning. Take a look around you or on the team page of your website even if you’re part of a team of four or five. Ask yourself ‘how many women are there on my team?’ or ‘how many people of colour are there?’ These ratios can seem insignificant when you’re part of a small team, but it will be harder to attract and retain talented staff of various backgrounds, genders, sexualities and identity groups when you’re a rapidly growing team of eight and your plan to have a more diverse team results in a token hire.
Look outside your network
Are you in the middle of hiring and not seeing a diverse pool of applicants? Chances are you haven’t looked outside your circle. When growing your startup, it’s understandable that you don’t have time to play hiring manager, but you shouldn’t rely on asking a few friends if they know anybody. This only creates a higher chance of teams that look or think the same.
One of the ways to go outside your circle is by expanding where you advertise. Set a goal to post an upcoming position to at least five or more job portals. Before advertising this new position, make sure you review the language in the job description for inclusivity. The TechGirls Canada and TWG ‘Diversity Guidebook’ suggests adding an inclusion statement in the description. For example, “we encourage applications from candidates of colour, women, queer candidates, candidates with caregiving responsibilities, immigrant candidates, transgender candidates, and candidates with disabilities.” This can help you cast a wider net of applicants.
Values over quotas
An inclusive startup isn’t about filling quotas and following affirmative action initiatives. It’s about building a team that extends beyond what your startup sets out for its customer base. And when you foster diversity and inclusion, you bring a range of perspectives that can help encourage creativity and better connect to your clientele.
The #ChangeTogether Diversity Guidebook suggests creating strategies for increasing legitimacy within your startup. This can include creating safe spaces for discussion among marginalized employees and training a staff member to serve as a key source of support for your team.
Implementing steps to improving diversity and inclusion doesn’t have to be a solo effort for your startup. Organizations like TechGirls Canada work to breakdown silos and advocate for resources and funding to catalyze inclusivity. Their ‘Portraits of Strength’ initiative features women who’ve helped break down barriers for underrepresented groups in the tech sector. Many of these women are available to mentor other entrepreneurs who are looking to turn their inclusivity plans into actionable items.
The DMZ is a leading business incubator for tech startups in Canada. They help startups build great businesses by connecting them with customers, capital, experts and a community of entrepreneurs and influencers.
The DMZ is a partner in StartUp Here Toronto.