This is not another random article on Women's Day 🐠
Because diversity is much more than gender parity
Of the Incubateur HEC Paris founders, 117 are men and 21 are women.
Of the Incubateur HEC Paris startups, 59 are 100% male, 8 are 100% female and 13 are mixed.
Therefore 26% of our project have at least one woman in their founding team.
The Incubateur HEC Paris incubates many startups whose founders are female, or include female members. We’ve come back time and time again to the same conclusion: we don’t have enough women in our founding teams. But that isn't our main concern.
Female is good, diverse is best. Something we noticed from working daily with founders is that diversity is key. Co-founding teams which have diverse profiles, whether it be in culture, education or gender, are more powerful. Therefore, on this nice Monday, which happens to be Women’s Day, we say that 100% female teams aren’t good, just as 100% male teams aren’t good. Teams are naturally smarter when different minds think together. Of course, we love all our startups and believe they will go far, but we do like a diverse team whose members will more naturally challenge each other.
About diversity in gender. It has been shown that gender diversity in a team is advantageous in three main aspects: first, it shows a healthy work environment and attracts talent. It also encourages debate and idea exchanges to promote performance and innovation. Last but not least, it signals competent management to investors, a much desired feature for your team when raising funds. All of these criteria can be improved by changing your figures and hiring more women, however, there is a catch. In research by the Harvard Business Review, it was shown that “countries and industries that view gender diversity as important capture benefits from it. Those that don’t, don’t”. Therefore, improving your numbers is nice, but actually believing in the benefits of it will get you much further.
About diversity in general. It isn’t a nice-to-have feature of your team, it actually drives performance. The startups of the HEC Incubator come from 8 different countries: France, Korea, Morocco, Tunisia, USA, Ukraine, Lebanon and Great Britain. 26 startups are not HEC alumni, but completed an online course to be eligible to the Incubator. This is the case in big companies as much as in leading startup teams: diversity boosts innovation and performance. “According to BCG findings, management teams with above-average diversity reported earning nearly half of their revenue from innovative products and services—nearly 20 percentage points more than companies with below-average diversity on their management teams”. Naturally, innovation in a startup is pretty much the entire business idea, so these figures aren’t to be taken lightly. When looking for a co-founder, or when hiring, startup founders should always seek out difference, not only in skill, which most already do, but also in gender, education, and culture.
We have taken some actions to increase diversity among our founding teams. Upstream of the Incubator, HEC Paris has developed programs such as the HEC Launchpad in collaboration between business, design, engineering and coding schools. The launch of our online program in October 2020 is also a way to be border agnostic and welcome entrepreneurs from all around the world. In December 2020, we were selected within the French Tech Tremplin initiative to support entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds. We are also actively looking for partnerships to increase diversity in our portfolio of startups with programs in Africa like 50 sprints or with programs and events tailored to a specific demographic like StandUp HEC or the Women’s Forum in the hopes that more women will co-found the next unicorn.
Still not enough.