A 2018 study showed that only 3 percent of venture partners are Black, but event tech company Bevy’s latest funding round sparked change with a 70 percent Black investor pool. This initiative leads the way for organizational success and inclusive solutions.
It has been over a year since our industry was unexpectedly hit with a pandemic that forced us to transition to virtual events. In turn, this transition created high demand and success for businesses in the tech sector. But in the midst of this pandemic, our industry came face to face with another — one that has actually been circulating for a lifetime.
The acts of racism that overtook the focus of the pandemic provoked Black professionals in the industry to unveil their traumas and break suppressed silence, and organizations were forced to listen to what was once ignored. As the tech business boomed, many of those businesses have also chosen to take action and answer the call of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).
A prime example, event tech company Bevy has recently committed to establishing more diversity in tech, making headlines after securing $40 million in Series C funding for generating 20 percent of the total funds raised from Black investors — who themselves make up an impressive 70 percent of the total investors who participated in the funding round.
Extending opportunities for diverse racial groups to be part of leading decisions is significant if we want to break systemic barriers and have effective change. Building inclusive leadership holds companies accountable in their DEI efforts.
Last February, there was a disappointing 0 percent of Black employees in Bevy’s workforce. They now anticipate growing that number to 20 percent by September, and are well on their way with a 14 percent Black workforce as of the time of writing. Active funding from Black investors not only demonstrates the company’s commitment to diversifying its business, but it also makes Black individuals part of the process of ensuring the right goals are met.
The initiative Bevy has displayed is what many organizations are encouraged to replicate. It begins with doing an internal audit to discover where your organization is lacking on DEI initiatives and also holding yourself accountable to creating change where it is needed. These initiatives initially support Black communities in building generational wealth and awareness. Visionary management consultant and entrepreneur James Lowry describes it best when he says “We are creating the blueprint for everyone to follow as we look to create Black wealth and a better tomorrow.”
It is important to note, the buck doesn’t stop at representation. After organizations hire diverse talent, they are responsible for ensuring those voices are fairly and equally part of work culture. Leaders must be properly trained to effectively deal with differences, and provide a safe space free from racial disparities often faced by Black professionals in the workplace. Collecting data from within companies and making the right assessments are key in keeping on top of DEI measures. Kim Vu, the head of diversity and inclusion at fintech startup Remitly, says “The more information that we have at our fingertips to really understand the different experiences that our employees have, the better we can really create an inclusive environment.”
There is a business case for prioritizing DEI as well. Choosing to prioritize DEI efforts is a long-term win for companies such as Bevy because it attracts more talent and loyal customers. Studies have shown that 76 percent of active and passive job seekers said that a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers.
More than ever, consumers are aware of and engaged in social issues. This plays a major role in where they invest their dollars. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, 80 percent of consumers expect companies to help solve social issues, and 60 percent will buy or boycott a brand based on its stance on racial injustice. It is also important to note that studies have shown that more diverse companies perform better and have greater financial returns.
Pursuing DEI in the workplace may have an ugly start, forcing us to acknowledge the embarrassing realities of our structures, but this should motivate organizations rather than discourage them. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it will determine the long-term success of a business as audiences and customers internationally become more socially conscious.
As the world slowly opens and live events begin to make a comeback, it would be wise for each sector to take a page from the books of tech companies that are progressing forward in their DEI efforts. The pandemic has torn many businesses within events down; as they start to focus their efforts on recouping their losses and rebuilding their businesses, what better opportunity to build diversity into the infrastructure?