There’s been a significant shift in the way we understand gender equality in the startup world, with recent discussions focusing on the lack of funding, the lack of female founders and of course, the right to be seen as an equal.
The gender equality discussion is well and truly alive because as a whole, we recognised that there was an issue that needed to be addressed. Groups and programs all over the world have been formed to support women entrepreneurs and founders.
Here in Australia, we have SheStarts, Girls in Tech and Like Minded Bitches Drinking Wine, to name a few.
These support programs exist because the discussion was had. So now we need to have another discussion. Why is nobody talking about multiculturalism in the startup world, or the lack thereof?
According to McKinsey, gender-diverse companies are 15% more likely to perform better financially. Those that are ethnically diverse are 35% more likely to perform better financially.
The latest census reveals that Australia is one of the most culturally diverse populations in the world, with 1 in 4 Australians being born overseas, 1 in 2 Australians having an overseas-born parent and over 20% of Australians speaking a language other than English at home.
So why isn’t there a bigger debate around cultural diversity in the startup ecosystem? Research shows that entrepreneurs are more often than not “disproportionately white, male and highly educated,” indicating that there is already limited scope for people beyond this prototype to succeed in starting a business. Those that don’t fit this description still hold the capabilities to start, run and succeed in business, despite the lack of recognition.
But aside from the business founder or owner, the fewer people in a company, the less likely there is to be cultural diversity. There’s less pressure on startups to meet implied quotas because there’s less people altogether.
Cultural diversity in the startup ecosystem is equally, if not more, important than cultural diversity in the standard workplace. Here’s why.
People are so important in a startup
With limited resources, and sometimes a limited amount of funds available, the people at a startup are the most valuable asset. They are the ones that make everything happen, from the day-to-day small things that go unnoticed to the big ideas that everyone sees.
And if people are so significant to businesses, especially to those in their infancy, the minds from a different walk of life will be able to offer the greatest insights.
The smaller the company, the more likely an individual is able to make a greater contribution, where startups can give international employees and interns the opportunity to do something big.
But, Melbourne’s startup ecosystem is not as integrated as that of cities that are more highly regarded.
Diversity is linked with innovation
MasterCard, who are known for their initiatives surrounding cultures, say that diversity “is the backbone of innovation”.
For startups who rely on innovation, ideas and new concepts to succeed, they should be the first to get international team members on board as soon as possible.
LaunchVic, who support and invest in the local startup ecosystem, have opened their Round 3 Grant Funding Program which is focussed on increasing diversity by improving accessibility for migrants and refugees.
It’s great to see LaunchVic and the government dedicate a funding round to promoting equal opportunities for migrants in startup enterprises.
Leveraging from our strong international education sector
We need to support and encourage international students and graduates to start their own businesses here in Australia, rather than in their country of origin.
There’s currently over 175,000 international students enrolled in Victorian education courses. We need to leverage this pool of highly motivated and educated individuals and in order to maximise the longer term benefits of international education here in Victoria, they need to be encouraged to start businesses here.
After all, ethnically diverse startups are fundamental in promoting the generation of ideas and feeding the startup ecosystem.
Gerald Holland is the co-founder of Outcome.Life and Outcome-Hub and specialises in empowering international graduates through independent advice and help.