Diversity toolbox for startups

Increasing diversity in companies can give startups access to new global markets and propel Norway into a prosperous future.

Teambuilding at Emax entrepreneur gathering 2016 .

Teambuilding at Emax entrepreneur gathering 2016.

Foto: Innovation Norway


The strongest and most resilient ecosystems in nature are biodiverse. Norwegian startups can take a cue from this natural phenomenon. Research shows that some of the reasons why diversity is critical to consider, especially at the early stages of staffing up are:

  • Access to better talent
  • Access to different talent
  • More innovation
  • Access to intercultural competence like foreign languages, foreign cultural codes and business codes, thus easier for startups to access foreign markets
  • Companies with diverse teams often end up more successful and profitable according to numerous published works, for example by McKinsey
  • Higher levels of engagement amongst employees
  • Lower levels of turnover
  • Lower levels of short term and long term sickness
  • Diversity is a branding opportunity, and can raise profile of a new startup 


How can we be innovative when building the team?

It is important to acknowledge that we all have bias and it’s a natural thing.  The human brain can take in 11 million pieces of information in any one moment, and we are only aware of around 40.  That means our unconscious affects our actions profoundly when it comes to human interactions. Considing hiring processes, acknowledging bias matters at every stage from writing a job advert, to the interview, to the office environment. 

Consider being innovative in where job opportunities are posted,  for example utilizing  social media and community advertising in diverse neighbourhoods.

Tap into networks outside your own. If you only post the job ads on you company's website you will not be reaching all the talents you possibly could.

Make your job descriptions inclusive (flexible office hours,  health benefits, casual work wear etc) rather than  exclusive like "are you a tech geek?", "free beer on tap" etc).

Diversity is an assett for your company. Do you already have a fairly  diverse team highlight it on your website and  job descriptions, for example "We invite you to join an entrepreneurial work environment, characterized by diversity, professionalism, and collaboration." 
This type of branding might raise your profile and attract an even wider range of talent. 

Consider an express statement of applicants that are welcome:  We encourage applications from candidates of colour, women, queer candidates, candidates with family caregiving responsibilities, immigrant candidates, transgender cadidates and candidates with disabilities.  Consider this a branding opportunity.

It is easier to get a strong mix of talents, perspectives, gender and intercultural competence if you consider diversity from the start. It is easier to change culture when you hire number five than  when you hire number twentyfive. However, it is never too late.

Diversity and inclusion at a work place is an on going process. It is not enough to do great work to attrach the best talents, you also need to make them want to stay in your company. 
Reasons more women than men choose to leave the tech industry and tech startups are conscious and unconsious bias, lower salary, lack of influence, "brogrammer culture" lack of flexibility and judgemental attitudes.  

If you want to make sure all perspectives and opinions are on the table, give room  for the introverts, not just the extroverts. Ways to do this is asking everybody in turn for their opinion, ask for written opinions, ask everybody to have prepared input.