Gender Diversity In Tech: Start Before You're Ready

Get into good practices early and stick to them: It's good business. 

4 min read

Image: Women of Colour in Tech

Image: Women of Colour in Tech

In response to the excellent article ‘HR Comes Last at Startups and Women Pay the Price’ I wanted to write more about the reasons why improving gender diversity in your start-up is linked to the financial future of your start-up.

Build diversity into your business plan

In the early days it can be difficult to see the value (or need) to have a plan around increasing diversity, but trust me, that is when you need to start. Most start-ups at some stage aim to be acquired or gain some form of investment. If this is the case for you, this is the time when you, your business and your business decisions will be scrutinized beyond belief. So when your investors start asking you about your tram, your hiring process how you deal with conflict, manage personalities, grievances and why you don’t have any women in your business what will your response be?

I’m not saying that you have to go and just hire women for being women. I’m saying that you need to be clear that your actions and attitudes are not preventing you from considering women; preventing them from applying for posts or even worse - making them leave in droves. And if that has been the case in the past, own up to it and take practical steps to address those problems. Investors don’t like homogenous start-ups with no diversity vision, especially as now diversity is fast becoming a currency in the tech world in its own right.

Start before you are ready

As an entrepreneur myself, I’ve heard this phrase so many times and when I’m feeling doubtful about my next move, this is the phrase that pops into my head instantly. When it comes to understanding bias, adjusting your upcoming hiring process and ensuring that your start-up becomes a business with a diverse workforce the same principle applies.

Sure, right now you might only be a couple of guys with a great idea but who knows what the future holds. It won’t be long before you start to look to build your team and when you do, you need to be sure that you are doing it right. This is where getting professional HR advice on how to develop your processes need to start. You are responsible for building your business culture and it starts here. Take ownership and look for ways to factor in diversity. It’s well documented that diverse companies do better financially, but only if they have a coherent strategy and access to professional advice.

Start with your hiring practices, promotion then retention

These are the three basic places that you’ll need to look at when developing and implementing any kind of gender diversity strategy. Behind each of these 3 strategies are a myriad of reasons why you are unable to hire or keep amazing talented women into your organisation.  Here are some great resources to get you started:

There’s plenty to get you started!

Implementing a diversity strategy after lawsuits or investigations from investors is not a business strategy

Litigation and bad press are not good for business. Especially if you have investors and stakeholders that you have to answer to. Waiting until this point to do something about a problem you’ve let get out of control shows lack of leadership and willingness to make good business decisions. Investors do not like threatened or actual lawsuits.

These are the types of things that force start-ups to close. It may not be linked to gender diversity, but if you have an HR problem of any kind, it’s very likely that you may have diversity issues too. Either way, it’s not good for your business.

As a start-up you have the power and responsibility to design your business culture. By focusing the bigger picture of what you want to achieve (investment or acquisition) you need to be clear on the steps you need to take now to get there. Improving your gender diversity practices is one of them.

Need help figuring out how you can start improving your gender diversity? Sign up to my any of my free resources which will help you make positive changes faster. 


#SheCanCode

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Michelle Gyimah is the Director of Equality Pays, a Gender Equality Consultancy dedicated to helping technology firms create inclusive business cultures.  Her firm has worked with technology firms and the financial services industry. Michelle is a regular contributor to numerous business magazines, international conferences and lives in Manchester, UK.