Buzzword to Implementation: Fostering an Authentic & Diverse Workplace

By Endeavor Greece Apr 15, 2024

Did you know that in the UK, there were more VC funds run by men called David, than women? Neither did we, Sifted hit us with that fact last month which they extracted from Morningstar’s research that took place in 2019.

So let’s get into it.

Is that true? Stats like these, and let’s face it - societal norms and buzz words, are what led us to speak to some of our female leaders, on International Women’s Day in the VC and Start-Up industry, to see if they undergo barriers and difficulties in their daily lives as women in leadership positions. To dig a little deeper and take it one step further we asked male leaders in the same industries how they challenge those norms, empower women in their field, and implement company-wide strategies to reinforce these practices.

A Glimpse into the VC and StartUp Industry

The VC industry is a team sport. It goes without saying that diversity and inclusion benefits every business. More specifically, in the VC industry, Andreas Stavropoulos a partner at Threshold and Vice Chairman of Endeavor Greece’s Board points out the “wisdom of a crowd” meaning that decisions are objectively better over time if the diversity of thought, approach, and backgrounds are purposefully included in the team making the decision. Practice what you preach: Hire industry leaders with different viewpoints and backgrounds.

Apostolos Apostolakis of Venture Friends points out that while traditional sectors may hold women back due to closed-mindedness, startups operate on a meritocratic basis, a sentiment echoed by Andreas. Stavropoulos emphasizes the significance of personal connections and chemistry in past VC practices. Nevertheless, both acknowledge the lingering influence of gender stereotypes in decision-making, advocating for a shift in mindset.

Apostolos urges showcasing successful female founders to inspire change because even though Venture Friends actively invests in exceptional Female Founders, there is a lack of representation. To overcome barriers, the industry must promote diversity by highlighting female success stories, and actively seek diverse talent. At Threshold, they actively recruit female professionals, valuing diverse perspectives for better outcomes - that evidently, they’ve seen in practice. Through these efforts, the startup and VC landscape can become more inclusive, providing equal opportunities for all, regardless of gender, to thrive in leadership roles.

Unconscious Bias

You may be implementing all the right things at your company, but unconscious bias is something instilled into our society as it's a natural part of being human. Acknowledging that is the first step, and then as a leader taking action is the second. Stavros Papadopoulos, CEO & Founder at TileDB, tackles this by practicing regular self-reflection and examining thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors to identify any biases that may be influencing my actions. Taking it one step further, a great practice is actively seeking feedback from all levels of employees at the company, creating regular company surveys to gauge employees' insights and opinions on a wide plethora of topics, and manager training. All of which is practiced at TileDB.

It starts and ends with you.

Be Authentic. Educate Yourself. Be approachable.

As a CEO or in any leadership role, male or female - your actions set the tone. What are some best practices that male leaders can implement? Haris Pylarinos, CEO and Founder at Hack The Box advises:

  1. Prioritize hiring based on future potential rather than prior experience to level the playing field for women, enabling them to ascend to management and executive-level positions swiftly.

  2. Ensure inclusivity pervades every aspect of your company's journey by implementing mechanisms in recruitment and daily operations to mitigate discriminatory behavior.

  3. Elevate women's representation and influence within the organization by supporting and showcasing role models regardless of gender, and actively amplifying their voices in decision-making at mid- to upper-level management.

  4. Recognize the importance of work-life balance in fostering inclusivity and offer flexible work arrangements such as remote work options and parental leave policies.

Stavros Papadopoulos chimes in by saying:

  1. Include gender equality and inclusivity by prioritizing these values in your actions and decisions. Lead by example, establish KPIs, and monitor progress rigorously to demonstrate their importance to your organization's success.

  2. Ensure your efforts towards gender equality and inclusivity are genuine and not perceived as mere checkbox tasks.

Foster a diverse workplace

Hire talented individuals who crave to learn and grow. At Hack The Box, Haris states, they cultivate a work culture that values diversity and teamwork. Gender, color, or nationality should never hinder anyone's career growth, and therefore by embracing diversity, they see that each team member brings a unique perspective, enriching our collective pool of ideas. Empowering every team member to contribute their best selves, fosters a workplace where everyone feels valued and respected.

Stavros brings another great point into the mix, expressing that empowerment within any organization starts by having representation throughout all levels of the company. Additionally, publicly recognizing and celebrating the achievements and contributions of women both within TileDB and women in tech, in general, serves as inspiration for others and promotes a culture within the company that women employees have the support and opportunity to succeed, however, they envision this success being.

A piece of advice for women

Embrace your individuality as a leader - there is no one else like you! Explore various leadership styles, drawing inspiration from successful women leaders and books, but ultimately forge the unique approach that resonates with you. A few key components that could help you along your journey may include:

Maintain composure amidst leadership challenges: Whether navigating crises or making critical decisions, prioritize calmness, informed choices and providing reassurance to your team to foster effective leadership.

Embrace innovation and out-of-the-box thinking: Challenge norms, explore unconventional strategies, and fearlessly innovate. Confront tough decisions directly, embracing lessons from both triumphs and setbacks. Stay receptive to fresh concepts, dedicated to uncovering original solutions, and relish the journey of exploration.

Recognize that leadership is about continuous learning: As a CEO, Haris realized that sometimes he doesn’t need to have all the answers from the start. Embrace the journey of learning as you lead, remaining open to growth and adaptation along the way.

Girl Power: As you progress in your leadership journey, be open to chatting, and leading other women. Mentor and empower them within your organization and industry, fostering a supportive network of growth and empowerment.

It's a team and societal effort that will bring diversity and empower women in the workplace. That being said, though men can play a pivotal role in their empowerment, one overarching theme emerges, and that’s the collective effort required to foster diversity and inclusivity.

In the same boat

As leaders, we all grapple with moments of self-doubt and imposter syndrome, regardless of gender. Whether it was the initial apprehension of offering advice to seasoned professionals at a young age or battling feelings of inadequacy following a setback, imposter syndrome knows no boundaries. Yet, amidst these challenges, there is a resounding message of resilience and growth. The willingness to confront such feelings head-on, seek support from professionals, and adopt strategies underscores the importance of self-care and mental well-being in navigating the complexities of the workplace.

The acknowledgement that continuous learning and self-improvement are essential components of personal and professional development speaks volumes. It highlights the inherent vulnerability we all face and the strength found in embracing it. As we strive to empower women in the workplace, let’s remember that it is not solely the responsibility of one gender or one individual. By fostering environments that value diversity, mentorship, and support, we can create pathways for women to thrive and succeed.

Challenge norms, break barriers, and pave the way for a more inclusive future where everyone can realize their full potential.