This has been a hard week for our nation. We’ve had setbacks (or maybe reminders?) in civil rights and the rule of law that have been compounded by an antagonistic leader in the White House. Why talk about it here? Because the tech and startup world in NYC and nationwide have the opportunity and obligation to envision and build a better world even before we have new leadership.
In New York City, every new company must be inclusive ‘by design’. What does that mean? It means companies have to be structured to acknowledge, welcome and embrace the diversity of our customers, our employees, our partners, our boards, advisors, and anyone else who is a stakeholder in our business. Is it the smart thing from a business standpoint? You bet your ass it is.
But we have to get beyond the goal of the almighty dollar. Left unchecked, look where that has gotten us. Inclusive by design includes company structures that make empathy the default condition. Do we have to all love each other or even be friends? No. We’re human. But empathy has to be built into how a company behaves. There need to be both rules and a company culture where everyone is respected and where people’s contributions are not devalued based on gender, race, age, or any other demographic property.
Are all ideas equal? Again, no. If I put forth an idea that doesn’t have merit that idea should be weighed and judged on its strength. If you’re a good friend you can ask me later where I got that dumb idea. We have to build businesses where the processes enforce granting dignity and value to everyone.
When a police officer can kneel on someone’s neck while three other officers watch and don’t intervene, we have a greater problem than one murderous officer. We have a systemic problem.
Yes, it’s true that change happens one person at a time. But we can also choose either to allow systemic bias and racism or create businesses that have a culture of respect for all stakeholders.