Perspectives

Organizational Culture: Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity

M13 Diversity Equality Inclusivity Fireside Chat - Panel of people speaking to group at the front of the room

A few weeks ago in a Santa Monica arts space, M13 hosted our first fireside chat of the year. Thanks to exceptional panelists and our cohost ThinkHuman, the topic of diversity, equity and inclusivity in a startup environment was explored through individual struggles with bias and audience questions reflective of efforts to scale culture in their organizations. We facilitated this conversation in a public forum not because we are experts but because we believe in learning and growing through our community of founders, entrepreneurs and partners. 

DEI is not just the right thing to do, it is also a crucial component of organizational success. Our panelists noted the advantages an inclusive culture delivers: increased innovation, better decision making, expanded market share, improved product development, enhanced understanding of consumer behavior, and a larger talent pool.

Our panelists agreed that creating an inclusive culture from the onset has reverberations throughout every stage of growth. Organizations with an established DEI culture find it easier to recruit great talent and maintain diverse decision-making bodies as they scale up. 

Panelists recognized that it is not always comfortable to educate oneself on ways our own bias might be affecting our companies. They emphasized the need to continually challenge and question ourselves. For example, a founding team that appears diverse on the outside might actually represent one core personality or value, thus missing out on the advantages of true diversity, which involves talented people who not only don’t look like us but don’t think alike.

M13 Diversity Equality Inclusivity Fireside Chat - Group of people holding hands at event

Even though we are all still learning, our panelists shared practical advice born of experience: 

  • Recognize that DEI is a need, not a want, and we can’t win without it;
  • Start working on our DEI culture from the beginning, the earlier the better;
  • Use diversity surveys and internal and external experts;
  • Allow ourselves to feel uncomfortable and learn from that experience;
  • Set the tone with strong leadership initiatives — and employee-led efforts will thrive; and
  • Investing money without quantifying the ROI will pay off in ways you can’t even imagine.

Our panelists agreed that the individual components of diversity, equity and inclusivity must be tackled equally. A condensed version of the definitions is that diversity is the gathering of people from different backgrounds, equity is making sure the leadership table is diverse and that everyone has a path to advancement and inclusivity is how comfortable your employees feel in workplace situations (i.e. can they be themselves?). If any one of these three elements is missing, the whole process breaks down. Diversity without inclusivity? Diversity without equity? It doesn’t work. We have to address each and every component in order to create a successful organizational culture.

The panel discussion inspired more questions than there was time to discuss. We are creating a forum for best practices on M13’s platform to further explore sustainable company-building based on crowdsourced questions such as:

  • How do we break the pattern of hiring employees and team members who are just like us? 
  • What type of technology/products/services are most helpful in creating and upholding DEI in your organization? 
  • I am the only female on a leadership team and have a limited role in hiring; what can I do to help the founder with diversity, which he says is Important? 
  • What tactics have you used to create authentic empathy and intention with a leadership team that have worked? 

As a different kind of venture dedicated to building sustainable companies, M13 will continue to learn and grow along with our outstanding founding teams. Creating a thriving DEI culture is a process that we will pursue alongside the entire M13 family. 

Special thanks to ThinkHuman, our moderator Meredith Haberfeld, and panelists Matt Hoffman, Jay Bendett, Kevin Kearney, Lauryn Nwankpa, and Kevin Yip

M13 Diversity Equality Inclusivity Fireside Chat - Group of people sitting at event