Our Commitment to Doing Better
X Genesis is a startup studio harnessing entrepreneurship as a lever for social good. Our programs challenge entrepreneurs to develop market-based solutions to wicked problems and launch new ventures at the intersection of impact and ROI.
On Monday, we kicked off our 8th program to help entrepreneurs tackle wicked problems. These problems — which include issues such as crumbling water infrastructure and extreme climate events that displace millions of people and cost billions of dollars each year — require people with a diversity of perspectives, backgrounds and life experiences to come together to craft solutions. Normally, we feel immense pride and a sense of accomplishment as a program begins. This time those feelings are dampened by a critical fact: our roster of thirteen “prospective CEOs” includes zero women.
Historically, recruiting women prospective CEOs into our programs has not been the issue it is now. Our past cohorts have been composed of just under 40% women on average, with 3 of 7 cohorts composed of 50% women or more. We fixed some early mistakes negatively impacting participation by women and BIPOC, and were able to make some gains.
However, what has become clear in light of the absence of women in the current cohort is that these efforts haven’t been nearly enough. We failed to adequately understand and address the issues that conspire to prevent women entrepreneurs from participating in our programs, and more broadly we failed to live up to our own aspiration of being leaders in empowering women in entrepreneurship. These failures are further compounded by a pandemic that has had a massive disproportionate impact on women’s ability to participate in the work-force.
We can do more, and we can do better.
Over the next eight weeks X Genesis is committing to undertake a deep review of our recruiting process, program structure, and company culture, supported by a third party DEI consultant. We will examine each of the following areas to identify gender and racial bias and adjust those processes accordingly to ensure access to a range of individuals and experiences:
- Outreach channels, network, and partnerships
- Messaging, PR, and all out-bound communications
- Recruiting tools, pipeline and selection process
- Program structure, including timing, time commitment and available funding
- Company culture, teamwork, and communication
Furthermore, we are committed to becoming a voice for inclusion within entrepreneurship and the startup community by being transparent with our failures and our successes, elevating women and BIPOC within the entrepreneurial landscape, supporting DEI conversations, and encouraging others to identify biases and eliminate barriers to resources and participation. Through the process above we will further develop concrete steps and commitments in each of these areas.
We know these steps won’t address the current lack of women in our program, but they will guarantee we never find ourselves in this place again, not simply for our own sake, but because solving the world’s wicked problems requires participation from the broadest possible cross-section of people, including women and BIPOC. We value the expertise, perspective, and voices of these groups and from now on, will not move forward without them.
If there is one thing we are familiar with at X Genesis, it’s the level of courage it takes to tackle wicked problems. We also know it’s not possible alone. As we begin this process of listening and learning, we invite you to engage directly with us to share your perspectives, feedback, and ideas! We are ready to tackle the problem of diversity, equity and inclusion in entrepreneurship, and look forward to ongoing conversations with you as we do.
Tom Higley, CEO & The X Genesis Team