ScaleUps can Lead the Way in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. One first step is a public Pledge that includes transparency and reporting.
When we created our investment analyst program we had limited diversity representation. Today, after building a talent pipeline, expanding our target colleges, and working with outside diversity organizations, our current investment analyst class exceeds 70% diversity, be it gender, ethnicity, race, LGBTQ+ identification, or socioeconomic or first generation students.
We are still just at the beginning of our DE&I journey. We are focused on implementing a broader set of actions to address the lack of diversity in our industry and in the companies we invest in.
How to do this, is the key question.
In June 2020 we published a 21 point action plan that includes initiatives to change our internal firm and to support ScaleUp companies who are seeking to build inclusive and diverse teams.
We found that we aren’t alone in our commitment to do better and that our portfolio CEOs are also on this important journey. Some are further along, and others are getting started.
Using this impetus we set up a CEO and Founder-led DE&I Council made up of a cross-section of ScaleUp leaders from within our portfolio. With advice from DE&I consultants, and the support of Insight’s leadership team, spearheaded by Managing Directors Hilary Gosher and Ryan Hinkle, the Council of peers set out to develop a pledge, a commitment to what ScaleUp software companies can do differently, and a set of targeted actions so that we can maximize the impact of our efforts.
The result of our joint commitment is our ScaleUp CEO DE&I Pledge, which launched during Insight’s MLK Day event WITH INSIGHT in which we showcased the work of Jon Fortt, CNBC reporter and creator of The Black Experience in America.
Nine ScaleUp Leaders from Appriss, Clinc, Contentstack, Finix, Force Therapeutics, Sisense, SmartRecruiters, TaxJar, and Tricentis, publicly signed the pledge, and as inaugural signees, they committed their companies to diverse recruiting, actions to build an inclusive culture, and reporting progress. By laying a foundation for accountability, Insight and the CEOs who signed the pledge are committing to the journey.
The motivations of these leaders to “do more” and build companies that reflect a fair and multi-cultural society are myriad, both personal and professional. We asked these leaders to explain why they signed up.
“As a female founder and consistent minority at the intersection of healthcare & technology, I have a deep sense of empathy for feeling ‘other’ than those around me.
Our Force Therapeutics leadership team is 75% female. These women are not in their roles because of their gender, but because they have demonstrated excellence and grabbed the opportunity to prove their might, and then executed against their mandates. As it should be.
Our greater company mosaic includes people from diverse backgrounds, countries, and belief-systems. We welcome and embrace the diversity of thought and opinion so that we, as a team, truly represent the community of patients we serve.”
Bronwyn Spira, PT
Founder and CEO, Force Therapeutics
The Connective Solution for Valuable Care
“So why did I sign up for the Diversity Council? Because I am a big believer that we, all humans, are all equal and different at the same time. Our differences are what make us stronger including, different points of view, different backgrounds and belief systems, different skills, abilities, strengths and weaknesses, and different heritage and personal traits. These differences and pluralism make us better as individuals, teams, organizations, and businesses, and as a CEO I can tell you, first hand, that I much prefer to work with people different than me, who make me better, than with people identical to me who do not enrich the organization or myself.
Unfortunately, despite us being all different but equal, the equal part is still behind where it should be, for society and for the tech industry. The Black Lives Matter protests and the Me Too movement a few years back, remind us of the painful reality we are in today. Being married to an awesome, entrepreneur wife, I, unfortunately, saw, firsthand, how everyone is NOT given an equal opportunity in the tech industry. This is a result of unconscious biases, and it is also deeper in our structured institutions (or areas) in our society.
At Sisense, we believe in an inclusive and authentic culture, one that takes actions to make everyone feel at home and equally represented, one that celebrates the differences we all have, that allows people to be their authentic selves. Are we perfect at it? No, as it is a continuous journey, and we are consciously working together as a team to be better at it all the time. We are still behind in some important aspects of diversity and not yet as diverse as the people around us which means we’re missing out on great talent. Some areas where we focused early are around gender balance in the company and as in everywhere, we still have more to do here, despite our exec representation being very healthy. For example, as CEO my direct reports are equally split male-female and our compensation is almost at full parity or higher.
In the end, the [ScaleUp DE&I Pledge] initiative is our small contribution to make the tech industry a better place and I hope it continues to move the needle and pushes us all forward together. I fully believe it is the right human thing to do, and luckily, also the right business thing to do.”
“Like many female technologists and entrepreneurs, I have been in situations where I am the only woman in the room too often and for too long.
One moment that comes to mind is when I worked at a major tech company, I was told that they didn’t make women-sized company t-shirts because there were not enough women! When I joined the computer science department as a professor 10 years ago, the running joke was that there were more male professors named “Igor” than female professors! When I started Clinc, I was the only woman in the boardroom! I find myself using exclamation marks to punctuate these types of sentences because they are still just so shocking to me.
We certainly have come a long way in improving diversity but not nearly enough. During the journey, I have seen how creating the right policies and culture can help inspire and nurture women and underrepresented minorities. And I have not stopped being amazed by the work and achievements of these young talented people when they are given the right opportunities. I signed the Pledge because I want to be part of the positive change and create opportunities for everyone to thrive and shine.”
Co-Founder and CTO, Clinc
“I’ve been in the recruiting industry for over 20 years, and I’ve always believed in fair and equitable hiring. But the reality is we need to do more. As a Talent Acquisition Software Suite that helps hire millions of people every year, I knew we were in a unique position to make a difference connecting underrepresented candidates to jobs. We’re stepping up as a leader to drive standards and accountability in recruiting for our customers and the industry as a whole.
Diversity Hiring is hard and many companies don’t know where to start. The tricky part is driving meaningful action and real outcomes. The Pledge aligns with our values of transparent reporting and goal-accountability. We’ve also launched a Diversity Hiring Toolkit to help organizations take meaningful action towards their DE&I goals. We’re committed to fighting racism and discrimination, and we’re proud to take the Pledge as one of the key steps in our journey.”
“As I reflect on our DE&I journey at Appriss, we’ve made great strides over the last couple of years. Our progress is thanks to a very intentional focus on the issue, and to an energized, conscientious workforce who actively participates in the discussion from the top down. Because we all see this as our responsibility, we’ve been able to breathe life into initiatives.
Commercially, we’ve always been focused on using knowledge for good in the world. Internally, we’re working toward conveying the same model. We want to be a company that doesn’t just talk about diversity, but rather celebrates it and does something about it. We’ve done this not just through tactical changes like launching a “Diversity Day,” an official holiday each year, but also through strategic activities such as:
- Launching a Pulse Survey focused on DE & I where employees are able to share their transparent experiences and recommendations.
- Scheduling listening sessions where we met with groups of employees to exchange ideas, hear about their real-life experiences in and out of work, and build an action plan for the most impactful DE&I programs.
- Setting up a women’s ERG (Employee Resource Group) to tackle career and workplace challenges for female employees and provide networking opportunities, mentorship, and professional development.
- Investing in the next generation of diverse tech leaders through our partnership with Girls With Impact.
Beyond leaning into DE&I at the strategic level, we’re trying to weave diversity into the way we talk to, and interact, with employees daily. Rather than just highlight traditional, more common holidays like Christmas, we honor our entire workforce by educating employees on other meaningful celebrations like the Lunar New Year or Rosh Hashanah to name a few. We recognize this has to be an intentional exercise that we can’t set and forget, but as we see how each forward step connects us more, we’re encouraged and motivated to continue.
We focused on the above progress because we’re really proud of how far we’ve come in a short time, but we know we’ve got more work to do. We want to be a workplace that connects people, breaks down barriers, and allows anyone, from any background, to feel at home at work. We approach the diversity problem with eyes wide open, hoping that each new idea sparks another. We know our DE&I story isn’t fully written, but we’re excited to take on each new chapter.”
“It’s well documented how a shockingly small percentage of investors are black or Hispanic or female, and how the result of this is the paltry funding of under-represented minorities and women businesses. Less than 2% of funding flows to the former group, and 7% to the latter. Likewise, these groups are not represented on Boards – the institutions that govern how business is conducted.
As we’ve grown from a small VC firm to a global ScaleUp investor in growth equity and PE, we recognize the imperative to lead by example. We also need to put real investment (both capital and time) into making change. This starts internally with our firm and spills into the companies we invest in, and the industry we participate in.
With the ScaleUp DE&I Pledge, we are not asking CEOs to make change without our support. We know that high-growth companies are focused on top-line revenue and they move rapidly. They want to be diverse but not at the expense of slowing down. This is where Insight can help. We can use our breadth to help companies educate employees on DE&I and unconscious bias. We can support diverse candidate pipelines and recruit through our Talent Center of Excellence (and our Predictive Growth Hiring program). We can ensure that c-level executive searches and independent Board director candidates comprise a diverse slate, thereby deliberately expanding the voices and perspectives at the table. We can add more female, Black, and Hispanic investors to our own senior ranks.
These are our goals. Set an example, live by our convictions, and be transparent so that we can be held accountable. It’s a journey that Insight is committed to. Even if it’s not easy or a straightforward path to get there.”
Managing Director, Insight Partners