As the father of two daughters, I’m glad to see greatly increased awareness of discrimination against women in the startup world and some progress in leveling the playing field. A lot of focus is on the fact that there are far fewer female founders and it is far harder for those founders to raise capital than it should be. Research is demonstrating that more diverse teams make better decisions than the typical mono-cultures found in the startup world of young white males as founders and middle-aged white males as investors.
But what I haven’t seen addressed, and frankly I have to admit to not thinking too much about, is the very small number of founders who come from lower socio-economic levels. It wasn’t until the end of The Boston Globe article An upper-class mindset doesn’t make you classy that that the reasons for this surfaced:
…,the predominant US upper-class view of rules is that they’re made to be broken. Just look at popular books about success, like Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman’s “First, Break All the Rules” and Angela Copeland’s “Breaking the Rules & Getting the Job.” If we want to succeed, these books tell us, we’ll need to cast aside established social norms and chart our own path. This is sage advice for people who have little threat, but clearly bad advice for the working class.
Though they tend to shun rules, the relative looseness of the upper class offers several strengths: they tend to be much more creative, entrepreneurial, and open-minded. The working class, meanwhile, struggle with diversity: they are more suspicious of people who are different from themselves, who appear to threaten their sense of social order.
In today’s digital economy, several attributes of cultural looseness reinforce upper-class advantages. Whereas those from tight groups understandably tend to view change as a threat, loose communities see mainly opportunity. They have the cultural reflexes — socialized from a very early age — to adapt to disruptive changes, and the autonomy and independence to chart their own course.
Unfortunately the article’s author, Michele Gelfand, a professor at the University of Maryland, and the author of “Rule Makers, Rule Breakers: How Tight and Loose Cultures Wire the World” and Jesse Harrington, a research associate at Fors Marsh Group, don’t offer any solutions to this problem.
Their conclusion, We must recognize that it’s culture that we need to reckon with, not just our bank accounts is not actionable information.
However, one of my VMS colleagues is a mentor at an accelerator called Smarter in the City. Their mission is to bring diversity to Boston’s tech landscape:
Our mission is to diversify Boston’s startup sector by providing support and resources for local minority-run ventures. Through our accelerator program, we draw investment to communities that have traditionally been left out of the high-tech startup scene.
Check out the stats on minorities in Boston on their home page, they are eye opening!