By Matthew Cooper, co-founder, EarnUp

Diversity is an important topic that our team at EarnUp is passionate about; driving all aspects of our business from our focus on helping minority communities to how we approach hiring new talent. So I was particularly honored to take part in a recent panel at the 2017 SXSW titled “Beyond Brogrammers: Diversity in Tech & VC.”

The panel was comprised of myself and three other great speakers, all who have embraced diversity as a cornerstone of their careers in technology – Tanis Jorge, Co-Founder at Trulio; David Blumberg, Founder and Managing Partner at Blumberg Capital; and Anthony Heckman, Associate at Kapor Capital.

Purpose of the panel

The panel was formed to explore how diverse backgrounds impact the technology industry from consumers to founders to investors. We covered a lot of ground, wrestling with the core challenges we face as a industry and the role diversity can play in the success of any VC or company. The panelists also dug into how straying from conformity impacted their brands and investments.

This is a topic that has been rising in importance on the national stage. As SXSW CEO and co-founder Roland Swenson recently reiterated after SXSW came under scrutiny for specific language in their contracts pertaining to immigration: “SXSW opposes discrimination of any kind. We have and will continue to support human rights for all. In this political climate, especially as it relates to immigration, we recognize the heightened importance of standing together against injustice.”

Defining diversity

The discussion began with defining what exactly diversity means. Tech firms are on the front lines of defining diversity, even to the point of defining who is (or is not) considered diverse. So the question arises: Is the current definition of diversity by gender, race and sexual orientation broad enough?

As Anthony Heckman explained, “The general academic and political focus on diversity in race, gender, and sexual orientation continue to be exceptionally important in the national discourse. The reality remains that specific groups suffer systematic and institutional disadvantages in daily American life. However, it is important we also have dialogue on more subtle distinctions such as the diversity of experiences and mindset that can impact the success of companies to scale and deliver product that can truly help all Americans.”

Diversity driving investment

David Blumberg went into detail on how diversity is essential for the success of any organization, including venture capital firms: “We value this highly, and people from different backgrounds inevitably contribute a diversity of thought”

David further elaborated: “As an openly gay man, I know that there be limitations imposed on minority communities. As a result, Blumberg Capital is always seeking out companies tackling massive problems with outstanding teams from all backgrounds.”

The Challenge for Minority Entrepreneurs

One of the biggest challenges for any entrepreneur is raising capital, but is it increasingly more difficult for minority and women founders? Tanis Jorge admitted that fundraising is “competitive and challenging, regardless of your background but you have a transformative product, then get out there and share it! If you have a great business idea, know how to communicate it, and have tenacity, than gender, orientation, age, education, and race, will not stop you from succeeding.”

Finding Diverse Talent

EarnUp is highly focused on developing a culture of openness and diversity, which starts by the hiring of talent from all background. Although it sounds simple in practice, it is often difficult to actually implement properly.

I provided three quick actions steps that any tech firm can implement to achieve diversity:

– Measure It: Set specific diversity goals for personnel, customers, investors, or any other area you feel is vital to your mission and success. Share these goals with the entire company and report them on a regular basis.

– Check Your Language: Review job postings for language that may be exclusionary. Here’s an article that can be useful for the process

– Go Where the Talent Is: Be present and recruit at events that cater to diverse candidates. There are a fantastic and growing group of events, conferences, and social media platforms supporting candidates from many highly qualified groups that are massively underrepresented in the technology sphere today.

Our team is passionate about the positive outcomes and we welcome dialogue from anyone who has innovative ideas on building diverse companies and culture.

This post was originally published on the EarnUp Blog.