Giant Leap remains firm in our belief that investing in diverse teams is good business. Last year we launched our FY23 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Policy, and we continue to measure ourselves against the targets we set.
The following outlines the work we’ve done over the past year and acknowledges the journey of continuous improvement that we’re on.
Giant Leap believes our team should reflect the incredible diversity of thought and experiences that we see in the world. We recognise the value of attracting and retaining employees with different backgrounds, experience and perspectives. Harnessing these differences creates more productive and inclusive workplaces and drives innovation, creativity, and problem solving to help us make better investment and impact decisions.
We’re proud that our investment team is currently 60% women (2 Associates and 1 Partner).
Table A. Giant Leap Internal team diversity summary
* Any gender or identity can refer to a woman, a man, a non-binary person, a trans or gender diverse person or any other gender identity. Overlaps with women or men, as indicated by the target range.
** This target has been set in line with population levels.
Giant Leap continues to believe in the need for diverse representation in its investor base and to provide diverse investors with the opportunity to invest in our funds. Given our preference for self-identification and challenges with categorising jointly owned investment vehicles, we do not currently track the diversity of our investor base and have not set targets for investor diversity. However, as per our commitment to quantifying the current state of diversity within our investor group, we are in the process of considering the best approach to executing on this to enable us to set targets in future.
In the meantime, we have taken steps to foster an inclusive investor ecosystem. We committed to speaking publicly about our commitment to increasing the diversity of our investment base and were able to do so on various panels and in private forums throughout the year. We further committed to supporting programs that educate women and people from racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds on investing.
In FY23, we supported VC Catalyst, an immersive executive education program for active investors to gain best practice tools and skills to make successful early stage venture capital investments, to reach more diverse candidates, and have additionally provided mentoring to candidates alongside this support. Our Managing Partner, Will, also spoke on an International Women's Day panel at the Wade Institute on the importance of increasing diversity among venture capital investors and decision-makers.
Giant Leap strives to maintain a culture that is respectful, inclusive and accessible to people of all abilities and backgrounds. We actively seek to maintain best practice policies in key areas including hiring, flexible working, leave, and pay equity. We want every member of the Giant Leap team to feel they are able to bring their whole selves to work and we have built a set of policies to support them to do so.
In FY23, these policies were put into action when we hired an Executive Assistant, and a new Investment Associate. We used Applied to minimise unconscious bias in the hiring process and we made sure the language in our job descriptions was accessible and inclusive.
In addition, our Partner, Rachel, and Executive Assistant, Charlotte, were both supported to take parental leave during FY23 as our inclusive leave policy provided them with 20 weeks of paid leave.
To support learning and development, two of our team members attended the Acknowledge This! training provided by Rhys Paddick and Emma Gibbens. Rhys and Emma bring their respective experiences as an Aboriginal educator and a change strategist, to facilitate deep conversations that educate participants about connections to culture, Country and one another. We highly recommend this program!
We also are proud to have completed our Reconciliation Action Plan, which has been conditionally approved. We are looking forward to submitting our final Plan imminently.
Giant Leap invests in mission-driven founders solving the world's most pressing problems. We know incredible founders come from all walks of life, with varying perspectives and solutions. During initial review of a pitch deck, Giant Leap will note (to the best of our knowledge given available information) where the founding team has a woman founder and/or comes from a racially or ethnically diverse background (including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people), allowing us to report on the diversity of our pipeline, and take steps to improve it where possible.
In FY23, 25% of the pitch decks reviewed by Giant Leap in FY23 were submitted by women-led startups, approaching our target of 30%.
Similarly, approximately 20% of the assessed pitch decks were submitted by founding teams where at least one founder was from an ethnically or racially diverse background. This is also slightly below our target of 25%.
These metrics deviate marginally from our targets and we acknowledge that we are on a continual journey of improvement. Although we have minimal control over the pitch decks that come into our review process, our proactive efforts toward improving the diversity of our pipeline include initiatives such as sponsoring ‘Anyone Can’, an impactful program run by The Creative Cooperative that supports Bla(c)k Women and Women of Colour to transform their startup ideas into businesses. The team was also involved in the Minderoo Foundation’s Dream Venture Masterclass 2022 series, a program dedicated to equipping First Nations Australians with the connections, capabilities and access to capital to become investor-ready.
Our policy set a baseline diversity commitment to only invest in startups that have at least 25% of their board, founding team, or executive team composed of underrepresented groups OR an actionable plan to achieve 25% representation as a priority. We can confirm that all new investments made in FY23 met this requirement.
We set a further target that 60% of our portfolio companies would meet the definition of a ‘women-led startup’, and we have met this target (60% as at June FY23). We defined ‘women-led’ teams as founding teams with at least one woman founder. We also define women to include all women, regardless of the gender they were assigned at birth, and acknowledge that gender is a spectrum. We intend to expand our reporting to also include non-binary founders in future.
We also pledged to invest an average of AU$3 million into women-led businesses each year over the next 5 years. In FY23, we invested approximately half that amount; however, this reflects the early stage of Giant Leap Fund II and the smaller cheque sizes we are currently deploying, so we expect this number to increase as Fund II progresses. We therefore expect to meet our pledge in the coming years.
We also set a target of 25% of portfolio companies meeting the definition of having a founding team that includes at least one founder who identifies as being from a racially or ethnically diverse background. We are currently exceeding this target, with 37% of portfolio companies having a founder from a racially or ethnically diverse background.
One way we’ve been able to support our portfolio is through the recommendation of inclusive hiring practices, such as using the Applied platform to reduce bias, improve hiring quality and increase diversity.
Giant Leap believes that by being vocal about DEI and taking actions to support people from diverse backgrounds, the entire startup ecosystem will benefit. This is why we set out to take part in a number of community building initiatives to support the broader ecosystem and close the funding gap.
One pathway to supporting the broader ecosystem is through office hours targeting underrepresented founders. Over the course of FY23 we met founders through office hours run in collaboration with leading DEI focused organisations including Anyone Can (run by The Creative Co-Operative), SBE and Scale Investors. We’ve also sponsored OneRoof’s Startup Women Summit and sponsored two places in Scale Investor’s EmpowerEd program.
We had planned to provide an internship opportunity at Giant Leap in FY23, but were not able to due to resource constraints. This remains a priority for the coming year.
Finally, in an ongoing commitment to addressing the shortfall in venture funding allocated to women-led businesses in the Australian startup ecosystem, Giant Leap joined the ‘Equity Clear’ initiative alongside leading VC funds including Airtree, Blackbird, Scale Investors and the Alberts, to commit to greater transparency.
As reported in the AFR, the initiative is a first and essential step toward improving the significant gender imbalance in Australian startup funding. Funds involved will report on the proportion of women-led teams they see at the top of their investment funnel (i.e. the proportion of pitch decks received), down to deals investigated, and finally investments made – both by number of investments, and by dollar value. See this breakdown of our current stats, also available on our website homepage here.
*Giant Leap defines women-led to mean that at least one member of the founding team identifies as a woman. We define women to include all women, regardless of the gender they were assigned at birth, and acknowledge that gender is a spectrum.
**Giant Leap defines ethnically diverse business to mean that at least one member of the founding team identifies as racially or ethnically diverse.
We acknowledge there is always room for improvement and are actively on a journey of continuous progress, and we'd love to hear from you if you have any feedback or ideas to share.
If you'd like to implement similar policies in your startup or fund, we've made our DEI policy open-source for the community's benefit. Check it out in Notion here.
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