Happy February! While February is the month of love, it is also Black History Month- a time to celebrate Black Canadians and their successes and contributions to our communities. 

Black entrepreneurs face added barriers when starting their businesses and accessing support. In 2022, a survey from the University of Toronto’s Black Founders Network found that only 2% of venture funding raised in North America went to Black-led businesses. We need to close the gap for Black founders who face limited capital and support resource access. We have curated a list of resources for Black founders in Ontario on our website. If we are missing a resource that should be on here- please let us know! 

With Black History Month upon us and International Women’s Day looming in early March, we will have many conversations around race and gender. Daily, I see the challenges of underrepresented founders firsthand. With all its innovation and future thinking, the tech world should be far ahead of other sectors. Unconscious bias plays a significant role in why the needle is moving slowly for underrepresented founders. Unconscious (or implicit) bias is a term that describes the associations we hold outside our conscious awareness and control. These social stereotypes can be directed toward people of certain races, gender identities, sexual orientations, physical abilities, or even personal traits. 

We all have unconscious biases – they are ingrained at the subconscious level. As investors, decision-makers, and leaders, we must recognize our biases and take steps to mitigate their effects. 

Here are a few strategies you can implement to tackle your unconscious biases right now. This is not a comprehensive list; it is only a starting point.

  • Be aware: Acknowledge your biases. We all have them – that’s part of being human, after all! Awareness is the first step to reducing bias. Ask your angel group or pace of work if they have any resources on the types of unconsciously biased biases. The 50/30 Challenge and Women’s Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub have some great online resources. 
  • Have conversations: Chat with your friends and colleagues. Speak out if you notice biases. Change only happens when we are honest with ourselves. Foster an environment where people feel comfortable admitting mistakes. 
  • Referral bias: Look at where your referrals are coming in from and the makeup of your network. Removing the referral component from the scorecard will help to eliminate bias. If there are few or no diverse founders in your pipeline, ask yourself ‘Why?” You may not be sourcing deal flow from those communities or programs. It is important to note that when our networks look like us, they will produce leads that also look like us. Take steps to widen your network and lead sources. 
  • Establish clear criteria: Create clear criteria and have a structured decision-making process as part of your angel investor thesis. Establish clear, objective criteria for hiring, promotions, and evaluations. This helps ensure that decisions are based on merit rather than unconscious biases. 

My one hope with this newsletter is that you stop to have a moment of self-reflection. Create space to be honest with yourself and about your biases. Small steps do count enormously when combating racism and inequality. Equality takes effort- but it is worth it. 

If you want an excellent place to learn about unconscious bias, start with this video from Google Ventures on Unconscious Bias @ Work. This article from Harvard Business Review on “Unconcious Bias Training that Works” is also helpful. 

This post came from the February edition of the AIO Newsletter. Sign up below to get your copy delivered directly to you every month and stay up to date on everything happening in the angel investor ecosystem. 

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