When we ran Knotel we tried hard to make it a diverse and inclusive place. In some ways it was: representation was pretty decent. ~50% women, about 15% African-American, and so forth. Our company looked like the communities it operated in.
But not when you looked at important further aspects like compensation or rank. Go higher in rank or comp, and see less diversity.
One of the reasons this happened is because the highest ranking (like me the CEO, or the top 2-3 execs) were also the longest serving. I started the company — and I come from a group that is pretty advantaged in elite corporate settings.
And the first few people who joined Knotel? Folks I new through personal circles, and also mostly-advantaged by background.
When you get focused on fixing diversity at the top ranks of your company, but the top 8 execs are all male, all privileged backgrounds…well, it’s a tough and long road to fixing it.
We did a whole series of important diversity leaders from Netflix to Pfizer to Asana last year, and the headline lesson was set bold targets. (Have a look)
So here I am back at the first moment, starting a new company. Should I leave diversity of the company for another day? After we get going and we know we have found a core product/market fit? When we can focus on non-existential questions?
Or should I make a diverse team part of how we conceive of and build an important new contribution to the world? Startups are a chance to make valuable change — shouldn’t we get a lot of voices there right at the outset?
So if you are wanting to be part of a new company, have been thinking of starting one, and if you have been trying to start one — especially for those of you who are different from me — give me a shout. I would love to hear from aspiring entrepreneurs who are Black, women, latino/latina, LGBTQ and others too. Door open. Hit me up by email to a at sarva dot co