Linking arms with the Black community in the fight to end systemic inequality
March 1, 2021
Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tony McDade, David McAtee, Robert Fuller, Rayshard Brooks.These are only some of the Black lives taken in 2020 due to violence rooted in white supremacy. The horrific stories of these people’s untimely deaths are manifestations of how the American social contract, which promises all citizens liberty and justice, has been broken for Black Americans. This narrative isn’t new. It has been pervasively woven into the story of the United States of America — a country built on the backs of Black slaves — for the last 400 years and into the present.In short, America has failed Black people.Over the last few weeks, LTSE has been looking inward. We’ve been listening to Black employees, thought partners, and leaders. While conversations about race have been taking place in our country more and more in recent years, they have changed since the Black Lives Matter movement began, becoming more urgent, action-focused, and honest with respect to the true lived experience of the Black community. We are engaged in an ongoing discussion about how race relations are being affected by this moment, and what they will look like going forward.
We realize that as a company at the intersection of finance and technology, we have a direct role to play in dismantling systemic inequality. We have already contributed to this work by becoming the only U.S. stock exchange with diversity and inclusion requirements, approved by the SEC last year. We know we are in a position to do more and are committed to taking on new work to support economic inclusion.
Historically, the Black community has fought an uphill battle for economic equality. Yearly reminders of the incredible hurdles the community has faced are visible during commemorations of Juneteenth, the anniversary of the emancipation of Black slaves in 1865, when Black people were finally able to start legally building wealth; and the burning of Black Wall Street, an often forgotten moment in history, when a section of Tulsa, OK that was a beacon of Black economic prosperity was burned to the ground during the city’s 1921 Race Massacre in an act of domestic terrorism perpetrated by the Klu Klux Klan.More recently, the effects of systemic racism have prevented the Black community from partaking in the country’s economic boom. According to a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, even in late 2019, a period characterized by positive economic growth and low unemployment, small businesses exhibited varying degrees of financial health. Firms helmed by Black owners, were more likely to be classified as “at-risk” or “distressed.” COVID-19 set this community back even further.For the last few months, LTSE has been scoping an effort to support underestimated communities that have been impacted by COVID-19. A recent study indicates that as of April, the country had lost nearly 450,000 active Black business owners. When you put that number into the context of the startup community, the impact is likely to be outsized due to existing inequities that have historically led to their exclusion from the tech industry. It is imperative that these entrepreneurs are protected in order to maintain an ecosystem of diverse startups.We want to help alleviate this disparity in the immediate future and better understand the problem in order to galvanize the tech and financial industries to create and rally around thoughtful long-term solutions to systemic inequality in partnership with community leaders.Today, LTSE has joined forces with several other organizations to build and launch a year-long experiment to support the economic mobility of underestimated communities impacted by COVID-19. It will be led by Go Paladin, a nonprofit that connects underestimated entrepreneurs to the vast startup ecosystem; The Plug, a data-driven news outlet covering innovation and entrepreneurship in Black and Brown communities; a select advisory committee of community experts; and a slate of founding partners. We strongly encourage our community and stakeholders to join us in this undertaking. If you are interested, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.orgInitially, we will prioritize Black entrepreneurs, i.e those that identify as Black and/or of the African American, Afro-Latinx, Caribbean, and greater African diasporas, with particular care given to serving those with intersecting identities, like women, transgender and queer people. The broader Latinx community will be included later on, and we are exploring how we can support additional underestimated populations.Our hope is that we can contribute to solutions that break the cycle of systemic inequality in the financial and tech industries by removing barriers to capital and access for founders that have been historically underestimated. We aren’t aiming to just help these startups to recover to pre-COVID-19 conditions; we want to help position them for long-term economic success.We understand that our actions alone won’t completely solve this problem, but we believe that Black Lives Matter and we are committed to doing our part to manifest systemic change.This blog post was authored by the Black employees and partners of LTSE as well as allies of the movement and with the support of LTSE CEO Eric Ries.
Internal Diversity & Employee Support at LTSE
In the interest of transparency, we are providing insight into our own internal diversity efforts. We are constantly working to improve internal support for all employees, with special consideration for the needs of underestimated communities.
Internal Employee Diversity Breakdown
Commitment to Reporting
We evaluate representation within our organization 4 times per year and will release data quarterly in the interests of transparency and accountability.
We started this work over three-and-a-half years ago by investing in equitable hiring practices. We specifically included experience in building diverse teams as a qualification for appropriate roles, and designed structured interview processes with an emphasis on candidate experience. Our job descriptions are screened for alienating language, and include information about our commitment to diversity and inclusion.We have partnered with recruiting firms that focus on underrepresented candidates and organizations that support the inclusion of underrepresented people in tech. We ensure diversity of both hiring slates and interview panels. We emphasize growth mindset across the board. For engineering in particular, we do not use white-board interviews and look to hire skilled developers rather than focusing on whether someone is “smart”.
We approach compensation with a holistic strategy using current market data to benchmark our offers and Hiringplan.io software which surfaces gender and race pay disparities. Additionally we perform pay/equity audits regularly and use our guiding principles to correct any disparities found.
We conduct paired interviews to reduce bias. We provide tEQuitable, an independent, confidential platform to address issues of bias, discrimination and harassment in the workplace, as a resource to employees. We feature speakers with expertise in diversity and inclusion in our internal learning series and support employees who wish to attend conferences and learning opportunities focused on inclusion as part of our professional development program. We have a Code of Conduct for all events that we host, and we proactively work to build diverse groups of speakers and presenters.
We formalized employee resource groups to form a sense of community and belonging, and blogged about the approach to encourage other startups to do the same. We currently have employee resource groups for Black, Womxn, LGBTQA, Womxn, Non-binary & Trans Engineers, and People of Ethnic and Cultural diversity. We will continue to add additional groups based on employee feedback.
We live out our people first principle by offering a Minimum Vacation Policy and parental leave and encouraging sustainable work. We are constantly updating our company paid holiday calendar to include culturally relevant holidays. We are observing Juneteenth company-wide.
We have updated our supplier, contractor and consultant hiring processes to increase diverse representation at each selection point.
We have partnered with Charityvest to establish a charitable giving match program. Employees can donate to causes they care about, and LTSE will match 100% of each donation, up to $600 per employee per calendar year.