Entrepreneurship14 July 20206 min

Why diversity is our biggest asset #WisdomWednesday

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Diversity is so much more than a buzzword du jour. For Start it @KBC, it’s one of our founding pillars and core values. Not only does diversity lead to positive change, it strengthens your company and community by promoting different perspectives and deeper understanding. This #WisdomWednesday we’re going to dive into some of the many reasons why diversity is good for society, and for business.

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Harnessing the strengths of a growing workforce

Let’s start by getting one thing straight: diversity goes well beyond race. There are many different types of bias found in the workplace. One of the most well-entrenched for example, is gender discrimination. Although women have come a long way in establishing workplace equality, they still face various forms of bias.

When Start it @KBC started making diversity a bigger priority in 2016, only 11 percent of the founders in the accelerator network were women. “We more than doubled that, to over 25 percent now,” said Start it @KBC founder Lode Uytterschaut. “We can’t solve the problem of too few female founders alone. It’s also a societal problem, where female entrepreneurs hear from family and friends that they shouldn’t work so hard. With men it’s more accepted. Women are realising more and more how these kinds of prejudices play a subtle role. We try to do our part by bringing women into contact with successful role models, and individual coaching is also key.”

Our mentor Dewi Van De Vyver, CEO of Flow Pilots and figurehead of our Women in Tech program with Netwerk Ondernemen, fully agrees. “I think above all female entrepreneurs need a boost. In our current society women are still subtly guided in a direction that offers more “security.” I think it’s important to send them the message that anything’s possible.”

Today’s workforce is growing and becoming more diverse than ever, with more women, ethnic minorities and members of the LGBTQ+ community being represented and contributing their own experiences and perspectives. Companies who welcome people as they are and promote diversity are setting the stage for success in the long term.

Author and entrepreneur Hassan Al Hilou, who will be speaking at our upcoming Designing Diversity networking night, summed it up in a recent Techmag interview: “We are at a PTS crossroads. With the P for People within a diverse society, the T for Technology to make data-driven decisions and the S for Society, to take into account a changing society. Following this triangle I help companies become more human and inclusive in terms of both their employees and customers.”

Stimulating innovation and creativity

We are all aware by now: diverse teams are more innovative and creative and better at problem solving. This is because the employees have different points of view and perspectives. Makes sense: effective problem solving is a team sport, and if people have different backgrounds and experiences they’ll come up with different and innovative ideas.

Culturally diverse teams are crucial to create products and services geared towards the communities they serve. With our customer base becoming wider and more diverse, it only makes sense to build teams that reflect that diversity. In addition to helping us serve our target markets better, multicultural teams help protect companies against various types of bias by creating mutual understanding.

Katy Jackson, the Scottish founder of Abracademy concurs. “We are a London startup with hubs in Amsterdam and at Start it @KBC in Antwerp. We work completely digitally and remotely. When we were only in Belgium, someone told us during a game: ‘We play that game differently in Belgium.’ That made me realise that we need to develop our workshops with those cultural differences in mind. We cannot just assume that everyone starts from the same experiences and the same background as we do.”

Changing the way we recruit and hire

Embracing diversity is also fast becoming a must in order to stand out from the competition in the war for talent. Cultivating a diverse and inclusive workforce is key to attracting and retaining top candidates. The edge they give you will in turn drive innovation and help attract new customers. In short, recruiting for diversity is absolutely crucial to power your company’s growth.

A study by our partner Jobat confirmed it last year already: employees want more diversity in the workplace. Some people think that focusing on diversity in the hiring process means overlooking the important element of culture fit, which is the extent to which employees fit your company culture. In reality the opposite is true: hiring for culture fit and embracing diversity go hand in hand. Culture fit isn’t about creating a homogenous company culture, but about shared values. Core values like honesty, collaboration and transparency can actually unite different identities or backgrounds and encourage a wide range of perspectives.

Not sure how to go about cultivating a diverse workforce? There are plenty of concrete steps you can take, from collecting referrals from your current employees to partnering with universities. The most important thing is to start with your company culture: are your culture and policies supportive of diversity and welcoming of difference? Think putting into place non-discrimination measures, celebrating and giving time off for diverse holidays, and inclusive parental leave policies. Promoting diversity requires taking a good hard look at where subtle and not-so subtle forms of exclusion exist within the company and being proactive in doing something about it. It’s not easy, but it’s going to make your company the best it can be.

Excited to delve into diversity some more? Sign up today for our Networking Night on “Designing Diversity” with Hassan Al Hilou, Dewi Van de Vyver and our partner Next Genity!