Personal View

Workforce Diversity

By Danae Ringelmann, MBA 08
Personal View

There has been a lot of talk in the technology community about what openness and inclusiveness mean in the workforce. While startups haven’t been a part of the dialogue much to date, we should be. Diversity is an important conversation that all tech companies, large and small, should engage in as leaders in innovation.

If history repeats itself and startups account for 20 percent of all new jobs in the next five years (as we did in the last five) despite constituting only 3 percent of all companies, then one of the most impactful drivers of diversity progress in the workplace will come from new businesses, not existing ones.

Indiegogo entered the conversation with our first Diversity Report in July 2014. Below I share how we’ve worked to make diversity a catalyst to innovation. Whether you’re a leader within a large company or a founder of the next big idea, I hope you find some helpful tips to be part of the change we all want to see.

Why Diversity Is Important

Simply put, diversity drives ROI. Morals and opinions aside, diversity in the workplace has been proven to increase productivity, fuel innovation, generate better project outcomes, improve employee retention (and reduce turnover costs), and deliver greater customer satisfaction—all of which lead to better business results.

For a company like Indiegogo—whose mission is to democratize access to capital by empowering all people to change the world through funding what matters to them—the importance of diversity goes deeper. We don’t just need diversity to innovate and grow; we are absolutely dependent on diversity to achieve our long-term mission.

Indiegogo’s customers are innovators, ideators, creators, and doers from all walks of life. Our open and inclusive approach to finance (i.e., allowing anyone a chance to raise money and make their dream happen rather than selecting which individuals get to use our platform) is the very piece of our business model that is disrupting finance. On Indiegogo, the people decide which ideas get financed, not individual financiers or financing organizations.

So far, we’re on track to achieve our vision. On Indiegogo, 47 percent of campaigns that reach their funding target are run by women. Compare that to the fewer than 15 percent of venture-backed companies that have a female founder. Just take a look at JIBO, Solar Roadways, Black Girls Code, AxentWear, and Lesbians Who Tech.

Our commitment to equal opportunity extends to our own team as well. We strive to recruit and retain employees who bring a collection of perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences to the day-to-day operations and culture at Indiegogo. Forty-five percent of our employee base and 43 percent of our leadership teams are female as is 33 percent of our tech talent.

The more our workforce reflects the diversity of our global user base, the better we are able to meet the needs of our customers.

Our Approach to Diversity in the Workplacee

Based on our experience starting and growing Indiegogo to a diverse team of 100+, here are some tips for fellow entrepreneurs looking to set their businesses up for success.

  1. Incorporate diversity into your mission and values. Two of our company’s core values are authenticity and collaboration. When you have a universal mission and core values that celebrate difference, your company will attract the widest pool of top talent possible.
  2. Start diverse. Early founding teams rely on their networks and extended networks to get the word out about new roles. If the founding team comes from similar backgrounds, so will their networks. So start diverse. If you’re looking for a co-founder, go outside your friends and family to find someone from a different walk of life. If your team is diverse from the beginning, then as you grow you’ll be able to reach a diverse group of networks from which to hire.
  3. Remove unconscious bias. It’s human to have biases. However, unconscious bias is a big reason companies fail to recruit and retain a diverse team. First, leaders need to admit that they are biased. Next, they should update systems and processes to make sure no one person’s bias controls decision making.
  4. Celebrate and reward difference. Diversity becomes just a word if it’s not lived and rewarded. Every quarter we empower our team to give awards to colleagues who uphold our values. When we’re facing a significant challenge as a company, we solicit feedback from everyone. We hold hack weeks every quarter that involve our entire company (not just engineers) to solve problems not on the roadmap, and we encourage people to shape our daily culture.

At Indiegogo, we will continue our commitment to equal opportunity and diversity. We have more work to do to ensure our recruiting, culture, and retention practices are both inclusive and scalable as we grow. With the foundation we’ve laid and a continuing focus, we know we’ll get there. We hope others will too.

Share comments or feedback with me on Twitter @indiegogo and @gogodanae.

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Danae Ringelmann co-founded Indiegogo in 2007 with a mission to democratize fundraising and has since helped to propel the company into the world’s largest crowdfunding platform. Today, she leads Indiegogo’s industry development efforts while steering the company’s employee culture and values initiatives.

Danae Ringelmann, MBA 08