Diversity continues to be a hot topic despite decades of ongoing efforts to improve equality.
In a short history, diversity training programs were first conducted in the US in the 1960s, following the introduction of equal employment laws and affirmative action. A few decades later in the 1990s, a series of high profile sex discrimination cases seemed to put big business on watch. Fast forward to today, and we’ve got months of the corporate calendar devoted to celebrating diverse employees and promoting workplace inclusion.
So, why does it feel like so little has changed?
Australia still has a gender pay gap costing women $1b every single week. In the tech industry access gaps to critical things like funding is even more stark, with solo women founders representing only 8% of completed deals and 2% of capital raised. These numbers don’t make sense when you consider that women-led businesses generate 12% higher revenues annually, using an average of a third less capital than their male counterparts. And women are just one group of many underrepresented groups from a variety of different backgrounds and lived experiences that are being completely underserved in the current system.
The simple lesson from decades of limited progress is that it’s not easy to change the cultures of large corporations to make them more diverse and inclusive. A classic example of this is the billions of dollars going to diversity training that is rendered ineffective due to being nothing more than a band-aid solution to deeply embedded cultural problem. This is a driving force for Kate Pljaskovova, Co-Founder of Fair HQ, which helps startups embed diversity:
“Did you know that companies spend over $8 billion on diversity training every year… while almost 500 studies have proven that such training doesn’t improve DEI and often [creates] backlashes? We need to start spending time and money on things that have been proven to work.”
We agree with Kate - and the mountain of supporting research - that companies need to embed practices to create change. And we believe that founders and VCs have a unique and powerful opportunity to shape a more equitable future by embedding diversity into business from Day 1.
One of the most effective ways to embed diversity from day one is by articulating and implementing an authentic diversity, equity, and inclusion policy.
This enshrines the practices and behaviours of an inclusive culture and makes sure that it endures as you scale the business from 2 to 200 to 20,000 people.
We know how hard it is for small teams to take the time to research and develop a DEI policy that feels real and achievable to them. That’s why we’re making our policy public for you to use as a template.
Giant Leap’s policy is built on global research into best practices, including conversations with global organisations such as DiversityVC and VentureESG. We also drew on best practice resources from Giant Leap portfolio companies focussed on the space, including, WORK180, Applied, and Fair HQ.
It is split into three overall sections that reflect the main focus areas of a VC fund but much of which is generally applicable for any business:
We know that the best way to ensure DEI standards are upheld and improved is to embed measurement and reporting into the approach. That’s why we set targets, such as for internal team diversity and our Beyond the Billion pledge. We’ll be internally reviewing our progress towards our targets quarterly, and will be open about how we’ve tracked in FY24.
So, how can you make the most of this public policy? Feel free to take as much or as little of the policy as you see fit and adapt it to your own needs. If it's working for you, feel free to share it around!
And of course, we’re always learning and hoping to improve our understanding of DEI along the way. If you have any feedback or thoughts, feel free to share them here.
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