Three Ways Startups Can Get Ahead on Diversity

Telle Whitney, CEO & President of the Anita Borg Institute for Women in Technology, talks to the startup crowd about how they can start early on creating an inclusive work environment. Part of the 2017 Collision Conference held in New Orleans.

You can create the culture of diversity at your startup, and it's an important area to focus on. By having the right team - a diverse one - it increases your innovation and provides more value to your customers. Diverse teams serve your customers better.

"Diverse teams serve your customers better."

"Diverse teams serve your customers better."

Your primary responsibility as a CEO is to create a culture - the place to drive innovation.  Yes, you'll focus on product and sales and metrics, but one of your most important roles is to create the teams that will best move your company forward.

A thriving culture is inclusive, and you can create this much more effectively when you're small than when you're large. So how can you do this?

1. Attract and hire diverse talent

Put diversity at the heart of what you're trying to. You have to do something different than simply mining your own network. You need to give it thoughtful attention, because if you don't, most of the team will look like your founders.

Don't forget, candidates are interviewing you while they get interviewed. They're going to think about what the environment looks like (or doesn't look like) when they're in your office.

2. Enhance your job descriptions

Job descriptions are how you talk to all of your potential candidates, so it's really important that they "speak" to everyone. 

There are many tools out there that can help you: Textio, Blendoor and Unitive are examples.

3. Measure and hold accountable

What you measure, you will change. As you begin to learn more about your employees, you'll understand what they are and what they care about, which will lead you to understand what you need to change in order to accommodate them.

Slack has an internal policy that they've made public:

Here at Slack, we are working to ensure that diversity and inclusion are fundamental components of our organization. Like many other companies, we are reevaluating and revising our recruitment practices. More broadly, we are trying to change the culture that can make Silicon Valley feel like an unwelcome place for many people. Part of transforming that culture includes accountability and transparency.

4) Create startup cultures that allow women to thrive. It's much easier as you consciously create to do it when you're at 10 people than to try and change when you're at 75,000.


Quizlet, a sponsor of Women 2.0 at the Collision Conference, is the world’s largest student and teacher online learning community with over 20 million active learners from 130 countries practice and master more than 140 million study sets of content on every conceivable subject and topic each month.


Lane, a product of Women 2.0, is a recruitment platform that connects ambitious, high-quality tech talent to workplaces that care about having inclusion drive the success of their company.