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How to Leverage Diversity in Your Startup

diversity

As our country and workforce become more diverse, smart companies are rushing to find ways to leverage this diversity to gain a competitive edge. After all, if the clients and customers you are serving come from a variety of backgrounds, shouldn’t your team as well?

While diversity is studied in business schools and prioritized in human resource departments, the fact remains that our tech industry just doesn’t reflect the diversity of the United States. Today 83 percent of startups have all-white teams, and only 5 percent of the workforce is black and 4 percent Hispanic.

Does this matter? Nathan Parcells, co-founder and CMO of InternMatch, thinks it certainly does.

“There’s clearly no one-size-fits-all formula to better teams,” he says. “However, diverse teams offer a multitude of skillsets, varying perspectives, and alternative learning styles. In the long-run, a more well-rounded team can contribute to the growth and success of an organization. Without this sort of development, many companies may stay stagnant or stuck in outdated practices.”

Parcells isn’t the only one who believes diversity is key for business success. In fact, 81 percent of companies say that hiring for diversity is a priority for them. So, what can be done to bridge the obvious gap between wanting a more diverse tech workforce and actually hiring for it?

Parcells and his team recently partnered with CODE2040 and Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT), the two leading organizations looking to help minorities become employees and leaders in technology companies. This initiative will utilize InternMatch’s 700,000-strong user base, along with club and university partnerships, to drive candidates to these elite programs.

I asked Parcells whether the partnership with CODE2040 and MLT will impact the number of women in tech as well.

“The partnership between InternMatch, CODE2040, and MLT will definitely contribute to gender diversity,” he said. “Since 56 percent of startups will focus on recruiting more women in tech this year, this partnership can assist these organizations in finding top-notch candidates with key skills, work histories, and learning styles.”

With so much on their plates, figuring out ways to attract diversity to their teams can seem like an overwhelming task to busy startup founders. According to Parcells, startups can do a number of things to get the job done.

“Startups can use on-campus career fairs, partner with diverse organizations, and utilize niche job boards,” he said. “Startups can also use social networking platforms like Twitter, GitHub, and LinkedIn to find more diverse interns.”

Parcells’s last piece of advice is one that can greatly benefit both minority job candidates and startups looking to leverage diversity within their teams.

Research indicates African American and Latino students are the highest percentage of college students that leave school with loan debt. If startups offer a paid internship program, they are more likely to attract those diverse young professionals who can’t afford to take on unpaid work.”

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About the Author

Meg Rayford is a communications consultant based in Northern Virginia. She previously spent two years as the Director of Public Relations for a nonprofit startup, where she learned a lot about providing clean water for impoverished countries, even within the confines of a bootstrapped startup. She is the editor of Tech Cocktail, and she develops media strategies for companies in Washington, DC and Virginia. You can read her most recent work in the marketing chapter of the upcoming book, "Social Innovation and Impact in Nonprofit Leadership," which will be published in Spring 2014 by Springer Publishing. Follow her @megkrayford.

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