It’s been an amazing week for decency in Seattle, and it’s not over yet. While Uber and Binary Capital are going through very public reviews of errant behavior, it’s spurring some of the best conversation I’ve heard about culture. The Uber example is especially poignant because it demonstrates how a toxic culture can ruin a company with an otherwise strong product and strategy.
Monday morning, I came across this post by venture investor Heather Redman about the value of building diverse teams and a diverse VC. She talks about the business benefits as well as the role that a diverse team plays in increasing inclusion and sensitivity to issues of harassment and discrimination. Would some of the prominently troubled companies be where they are today if they had more women in senior leadership and board positions? I think not.
I had the distinct pleasure of hearing Heather speak twice this week – first at Startup Grind, followed by a panel hosted by The Boardlist. Heather’s mission to diversify VCs and invest in diverse companies is nothing short of inspiring. Here are just a few of my takeaways from Tuesday evening:
- If you made money in tech it’s your responsibility to put it back in the ecosystem.
- We have to make the money more plentiful than the people and ideas.
- A VC is one of the worst places for diversity. You’ve got to build your own.
- Spencer Rascoff coined a new term for not investing early in your people and culture: Cultural Debt. It’s trending.
Last night’s panel was put on by The Boardlist: “…a curated talent marketplace for the tech community to recommend, discover and connect highly qualified women leaders with opportunities to serve on private and public company boards.” How many times have you heard CEOs say they can’t find a woman for their board? Boardlist Founder and CEO Sukhinder Singh notes that supply is not the problem – the problem is demand. Her company is working to fix that by creating a marketplace of board-ready women.
The women on The Boardlist panel including Heather Redman, Kristina Bergman, and Erin Lantz, talked about the role of the board. Suggestions included making sure to include an independent board member, and how to manage effectively whether you run a company or you’re a board member yourself. Here’s what I learned:
- Your board is not the Supreme Court. In other words, there’s no life tenure. Set clear timelines and remove board members who are not productive.
- You can restructure your board at every funding round. This is an easy way to make necessary changes without extra conflict.
- You can write a clause to have board members removed in cases of sexual harassment.
I woke up this morning to this post by Hadi Partovi, reminding companies he’s involved with that he is their ally and urging them to take the #Decency Pledge. Hadi promised not to turn a deaf ear to complaints or concerns raised by employees. His stance is courageous, and I applaud him for it. In light of the number of executives, HR people, and board members who have done exactly that recently, it’s important to let people know they have a place to go where they will be heard, treated with respect, and not retaliated against.
I encourage you no matter what your role – speak up, make respect and diversity non-negotiables in your organization, and let others know where you stand. You are surrounded by role models who will guide you.
If you’re working to increase inclusion in your organization, let us know how we can help – contact us anytime.