How to remind a growing company about the benefits of diversity
December 17, 2017 10:40 AM   Subscribe

I am a investor in a very cool and fast-growing creative company that is making a lot of key hires for their nationwide expansion. At their investor update presentation last week (watched remotely) I notice that all of the 7 or 8 key hires they mentioned in leadership roles are men. They do have at least a couple women in top roles from their founding team but I was definitely struck by the long list of dudes they presented last week. It is well understood that having diversity on a leadership team is beneficial to business. How can I bring it up with them tactfully to ask after the actual balance of their leadership team and remind them that they should keep this stuff top of mind as they grow?

I am a woman, and an early an early/sizable investor but by no means their largest (although I have definitely introduced them to other investors). I have hung out with them in person a couple times, but would have to bring this up to their ceo or cfo on the phone or over email. Team is already big, like 100+. Board is all men, all the executives I know personally are men. Not a tech company.
posted by wowenthusiast to Human Relations (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You're joking, right?

Be direct and professional. Don't sugarcoat it. Tell them what's required, you're an investor.

"The leadership roles announced last week lacked the diversity necessary for longterm success."

Then state what you want or ask a question. You have agency, use it. You're doing them the favor, not the other way around.
posted by jbenben at 10:56 AM on December 17, 2017 [39 favorites]

Wait. I'll state that differently... The goal is Win/Win transactions. Phrase it any way that makes sense, but let them know exactly what Win/Win includes between you, them, and the marketplace. This is well within your role as an investor.
posted by jbenben at 11:03 AM on December 17, 2017 [5 favorites]

I agree -- as an investor, you're well-positioned to be direct. You've been following their progress from the beginning; would they respond well to book recommendations? Links relevant TED talks or brief articles? Consulting services? Offering some 'moving forward' direction your email might make you more comfortable in stating the sort of progress that you, as one of their backers, wholly support.
posted by Iris Gambol at 11:12 AM on December 17, 2017

Response by poster: Absolutely agree that I am well positioned to say something to them and plan to, just looking for best ways to bring it up. I also want to leave room in case I’m wrong- we weren’t presented an org chart, just a lot of male names in new key hire positions on their slides.

They’re moving quickly and doing a great job with the business in general, but i’d be incredibly sad to see them end up with 1 female out of 12 leadership seats. They are better than that.
posted by wowenthusiast at 11:20 AM on December 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: An email means you won't have to leave the room if you're wrong.

Also -- you're not wrong to be struck by 7 or 8 new, key hires being men, the existing all-male board, and that all the execs you personally know are men. If there are women in important positions but they're not in the limelight (or not involved with investor relations), that's a problem, too. By bringing this up you're allowing the company to clarify matters for you and for others as well.
posted by Iris Gambol at 11:55 AM on December 17, 2017 [8 favorites]

Diversity in leadership (and at all levels) creates better ideas that are more marketable to a wider audience. Hire the people you plan to sell to.
posted by Autumnheart at 12:09 PM on December 17, 2017

I don't have a specific citation, but check the Harvard Business Review. They've done articles about this, and I vaguely remember one that discussed how you get better discussions (and results) when the group is more diverse in part because people explain their thinking and expectations better when they don't assume everyone shares the same background.
posted by Lexica at 12:48 PM on December 17, 2017 [3 favorites]

Be direct and professional. No need to be especially tactful. If a little bit of irritatation or disappointment shows through, that is fine. It's not like diversity is a new concept for them.
posted by SLC Mom at 12:48 PM on December 17, 2017 [3 favorites]

I agree, no need to be particularly tactful or even go into a lot of detail. New companies should be aiming for equality across the board and should have explicitly policies to that effect. If this organization doesn't have that now, it should by the end of your discussion.
posted by rpfields at 1:25 PM on December 17, 2017 [4 favorites]

People have given you great things to think about and.or mention as you move forward here. Here are some simple citations that I use when I am making this kind of case

- How diversity Makes Us Smarter - Scientific American
- Diversity Makes You Brighter - New York Times
- Why Diverse Teams Are Smarter - Harvard Business Review (prob. what Lexica was referring to)
posted by jessamyn at 5:46 PM on December 17, 2017 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. Adding these links to the archive.
HBR: Can You Push Diversity Without Creating Resentment
HBR: Women and Minorities are Penalized for Promoting Diversity.
posted by wowenthusiast at 7:24 PM on December 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

"Research shows diverse teams are more innovative, productive, and profitable. Why are you throwing money away by having a homogeneous team? How are you planning to fix it?"
posted by spindrifter at 6:07 AM on December 20, 2017

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