How social investors, entrepreneurs can promote diversity, inclusion in portfolio companies

Creating an inclusive workplace can improve employee satisfaction, retention, and engagement. [iStockphoto]

In recent years, there has been a growing movement towards promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace. This movement has gained particular momentum in the tech industry, where companies are recognising the importance of having diverse perspectives and experiences represented within their teams. But diversity and inclusion are not just important for tech companies - they are important for all types of businesses.

The case for diversity and inclusion has been made many times over. Studies have consistently shown that diverse teams are more innovative, creative, and effective than homogenous teams. For example, a study by McKinsey found that companies in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity in their executive teams were 33 per cent more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the bottom quartile. Similarly, companies with more women on their boards or in leadership positions tend to outperform those with fewer women.

But diversity and inclusion are not just about the bottom line. Creating an inclusive workplace can also improve employee satisfaction, retention, and engagement. When employees feel valued and included, they are more likely to be motivated and productive, leading to better outcomes for the company as a whole.

So how can social investors and entrepreneurs in Africa promote diversity and inclusion in the portfolio companies they invest in or run?

First, they can set clear goals and metrics. It is important to have a concrete plan for promoting diversity and inclusion, with specific goals and metrics to track progress. For example, a company might set a goal of increasing the representation of women and people of colour in leadership positions and track progress towards that goal over time.

Second, they can educate employees and leadership to make sure that all employees understand the importance of diversity and inclusion and are equipped with the tools and skills to create an inclusive workplace. This might involve training sessions or workshops on topics such as unconscious bias, cultural competency, and effective communication.

Third, they can recruit and retain diverse talent. Social entrepreneurs can take proactive steps to attract and retain a diverse workforce, such as advertising job openings in diverse communities or offering flexible work schedules to accommodate employees with different needs. Similarly, social investors can support entrepreneurs from underrepresented demographics such as women, differently-abled people, and entrepreneurs from marginalized communities. By providing funding and resources to these entrepreneurs, social investors can help address the systemic inequalities that exist in the business world and promote greater diversity and inclusion.

Lastly, they can create a culture of inclusion. Inclusive workplaces are those where employees feel valued and respected, regardless of their background or identity. Social investors and entrepreneurs can promote this culture by modelling inclusive behaviour, creating opportunities for employees to connect and bond, and celebrating diversity in all its forms.

In conclusion, social investors and entrepreneurs in Africa have a unique opportunity and an essential role to play in promoting diversity and inclusion in portfolio companies. By prioritizing these values in their investment decisions, supporting diverse entrepreneurs, and advocating for policy changes, they can help create a more equitable, inclusive, and just business environment in Africa. It is time for social investors and entrepreneurs to take a leading role in promoting diversity and inclusion, not just because it is the right thing to do, but also because it makes good business sense.

-The writer, Norah Koigi, is a development finance specialist currently working in the Access to Finance space. She is also an investor in tech-enabled businesses across Africa