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Guidance and Best Practice for VCs, Private Equity and Institutional Investors.

With regard to Diversity and Female Entrepreneurship.

Co-authored by

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In partnership with

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Introduction

Intro
In 2019, The Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship identified lack of funding as one of the most significant barriers preventing women from scaling a business. In 2022, over 20% of all new businesses were created by women, however the level of investment in all-female led companies remains well below this.
This is a complex issue, but not one that we should overlook as it is frequently mentioned by female and diverse entrepreneurs who feel they are judged to be less competent than their peers. 
 
This report has been created by leading investors and professionals within the venture community as a resource for institutional and other investors who wish to maximise access to diverse deal-flow and manage their companies and portfolios to optimise return. By means of inspiration, many of the photos used are from real-life early-stage pitches, internal meetings, outreach meetings and networking events. We gently ask investors who read this to think about whether this is the sort of inclusion and culture they promote, or would like to promote, within their organisations.
The guidance and best practice examples are split into four sections: 
  1. Talent acquisition, retention and development
  2. Internal education, culture and policy
  3. Outreach, access to deal-flow and unconscious investment bias
  4. Influence, external guidance and portfolio management
 
It draws heavily on work done by Diversio and Diversity VC, which work with VC and PE firms, LPs, entrepreneurs and universities to create an industry that is free from bias. These guidelines are intended to provide guidance for investors who are beginning their diversity and inclusion (D&I) journey, as well as those who are further along the process.
Our recommended next step is for investors to get certified under “The Standard” developed by Diversity VC, Diversio and OneTech. We recommend that all investors undertake a Portfolio Assessment, administered by Diversio as part of The Standard, to ensure their funds are being allocated fairly and objectively.
Finally, we recommend that all financial organisations become signatories to the Investing in Women Code to support the advancement of female entrepreneurship in the UK by improving access to tools, resources and finance from the financial services sector.
This is a live and working initiative and we are keen to get feedback across the industry. Please get in touch here so we can continue to drive the conversation forward.

The guidelines
at a glance

A checklist of best practice processes for VCs, private equity and institutional investors.
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  • Hiring
  • Widen applicant pool beyond traditional sources
  • Remove bias from hiring processes
  • Interview and hiring targets
  • Talent targets
  • Be worthy of great talent
  • Diverse mentorship programmes
  • Family leave policy
  • Returnship programme
  • Flexible work policies
  • Back-up care
  • Work-life balance
  • Pay gap analysis
  • Training and mentoring programmes for hires from different backgrounds
  • Organisational D&I statement and strategy
  • Accountability
  • Have an internal culture of clear, direct and plain-text expectations
  • Chief diversity officer or champion
  • Harassment and discrimination policies
  • Organisational culture surveys and tracking progress
  • Inclusive office spaces
  • Leadership training
  • Anti-harassment training
  • Measure promotions and attrition by gender, ethnicity and other areas
  • Employee resource groups or circles
  • Harassment reporting system
  • Cultural competency training
  • Tracking and reporting deal-flow demographics
  • Targets
  • Partnerships with D&I organisations
  • Diversity referral programme
  • Executive compensation
  • Dedicated fund
  • Access and outreach programme
  • Qualitative and quantitative scorecards
  • Communication, review and feedback
  • Unconscious bias awareness
  • D&I as a metric
  • Provide additional guidance to female-led companies and other diverse groups
  • Diversity on boards of directors.
  • Standard code of conduct and zero-tolerance policy
  • Culture and executive training
  • Portfolio inclusion assessment
  • Mental health support
  • Independent ombudsman
  • Include D&I questions during due diligence
  • Use your position of authority responsibly
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