One of the perks of being in business for such a long time is getting to know creative people who create good in the world, like at CounterPart III in Ken Fulk’s beautiful St Joseph’s church which is right down the street from our SoMa studio. We had the joy of partnering with Patrick and Joe some years back when they were looking to name their venture and so had the absolute pleasure last month of attending an event that gathered together a mix of founders, VCs, and hanger-ons like me for a lovely day of networking, panel discussions, and breakout sessions.
The outstanding panel of the day was The Power of JEDI (justice, equality, diversity, inclusion) in business. Moderated by Stanford Professor and Fund managing director Fern Mandelbaum, she was joined by three panelists Jasmine Crowe from GoodR, Elise Smith Praxis from Labs, and Maria Colacurcio from Syndio. While all 4 women were outstanding thought leaders, there were some key moments that really resonated with me.
Being diverse for the sake of only meeting requirements isn’t good. It’s true that there are rules and regulations, it’s not enough to have programs only for the sake of staying out of trouble. The office is rapidly becoming more and more the only place of integration in modern life. Our corporations are frequently becoming the least segregated interaction that people have during their daily lives. So fostering diversity is no longer just paying lip service to something you ’should’ be doing to avoid sanctions, it’s helping your organization at a cultural level work better together.
For companies that haven’t taken JEDI seriously up to this point, the way to deal with it is NOT by waiting until it becomes an issue. Social media is here to stay and no one wants to deal with a blog post written by an employee that goes viral. Good corporate governance means not just using HR to avoid lawsuits, it means using HR to listen to your staff to avoid them, crafting programs that encourage inclusion and diversity, creating affinity groups etc. Employees know when they bring up ideas and take training that is meaningless. Running through mandatory sexual awareness classes and diversity training but your entire c-suite is made of single color men shows you don’t walk the walk. And that creates as much risk with PR as it does with legal.
The most interesting question came during the QA and it was from a white man who asked what to do when he needed to get someone hired fast but everyone he knew was from his homogenous social group. And the answer from Jasmine was on the money- you put in the work to build new networks. Don’t wait until you need someone to start thinking about it, increase your networks now so that when it’s time for you to pull that fast hire, you have more options and opportunities to increase diversity and include some new thinking.
I’ve written before about our efforts to increase diversity in our staff; working from home means we’re able to reach outside of our geographic area to reach new parts of the country.
Hiring for entry-level jobs based on experience and aptitude and not a mandatory degree is our attempt to increase inclusion for divergent thinkers and different socio-economic groups.
At 300FeetOut, we believe that politics and personal beliefs are inseparable and that our core value to be people-centric is more than just a value statement.