Shabby, unkind and unprofessional treatment of women by men (and sometimes by other women) whether in venture capital or more broadly is unacceptable. While women have had the rough end of the stick for hundreds of years, being treated fairly and kindly should not be gender specific.
It is not about being a woman or a man or even religion or ethnicity. It’s about the values we choose to live by and which values give us a greater crack at success – however we define success!
How we treat each other and the importance of diversity is about a set of values and two values in particular – kindness and respect.
Supporting and scaling start-ups is no walk in the park. It’s often challenging and down right terrifying – for founders and investors. The fear of failure and rejection is always skulking in the shadows of fund raising, closing a sales deal and hiring senior employees. It’s anxiety inducing.
More kindness and respect would not go amiss. The AANZ believes both are key components of success, particularly when it comes to successfully scaling high growth startups.
We need to acknowledge that tough conversations are often necessary in our world. These may feel unkind but the pain can be minimised if respect and empathy – without bias – are at the heart of these conversations too.
Values complimenting kindness also support the importance of diversity. Kindness requires open-mindedness, curiosity and exploring different points of view. Successful founders live these values and these values are at the heart of the informed pivot and the ability to create and build value.
Kindness must underpin ensuring there is diversity in our deal flow, at our events and in our governance. Diversity mustn’t be about tokenism or ticking a box. Delivering diversity is about trying and looking harder to ensure it exists. It’s about valuing people to create value. We should select women (or Maori or Chinese or Buddhist) founders, speakers and board members based on their ability to shine and help others to shine. To do anything other than this is unkind – to everyone, and especially to the ‘box tickee’.
The AANZ Code of Conduct can be found here. We have added two clauses to the behaviours we expect. They are to be:
– Kind and respectful, and
– Supportive of diversity
As an industry we take responsibility, individually and collectively, for reflecting the behaviours set out in the Code of Conduct. We will talk quietly to those we are worried might not be reflecting these. We are not advocates of naming and shaming. That’s not kind or respectful.
The AANZ Constitution, however, makes it clear that our members must be “of good standing in the angel investment community” and there is provision for members to be expelled when this is no longer the case. The profound potential for common good inherent in angel investment is squandered when the self-interest reflected in unkindness is prioritised.
We all have circles of inspiration and impact – we must be the change we want to see – it’s powerful stuff.
“Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.” – Albert Schweitzer