When is the right time to make diversity a priority for your company? For men who start tech companies, the answer is, apparently, never.
Tech companies founded by men rarely achieve gender parity in their workforce and don’t get anywhere close in leadership, according to a new analysis of 13,000 firms by recruiter Stellares. Among the small number of firms started by women, a balanced workforce is the norm.
“It’s very typical in Silicon Valley to say something like, ‘When you’re very small, there’s so many things to deal with, you can’t really take care of diversity, you can do it later,’” said Roi Chobadi, founder and CEO of San Francisco-based Stellares. “What we saw is that it doesn’t come later.”
At companies with all-male founding teams, about 14 percent of leadership positions are held by women. At those started by all-female teams, the split is about even. The pattern cuts across companies regardless of size, Chobadi says.
The imbalance is partly a function of the talent pool: Women earn only about 18 percent of engineering and computer science degrees. But it’s also because, in an industry often pilloried for bias and hostility toward women, creating a more diverse workplace takes conscious effort, and few founders make it a priority.
So what’s a committed male founder to do? One way to counter the trend, Chobadi found, is to put women in charge of the HR department. When women make up at least half of the human resources positions, a higher proportion of the company leadership — about 20 percent — will also be women, the analysis found. The same improvements were found in HR departments with increased levels of minority staff.