"Diversity isn't a cynical PR move, it's a shrewd business strategy" – Why one venture capitalist supports the Ada Initiative

Smiling woman

Rachel Chalmers, venture capitalist

This is a guest post from Rachel Chalmers, Principal at venture capital firm Ignition Partners and a member of the Ada Initiative board of directors. Keep reading to find out why Rachel donated $2,000 of her own money to the Ada Initiative, and is calling on other venture capitalists and investors to join her in supporting the Ada Initiative.

As an industry analyst, I covered 1,054 startup companies over 13 years. Of these, the single most dramatic success was VMware, worth $40 billion as I write this. VMware was remarkable in another respect: one of its founders was a woman.

Two women smiling, CC BY-SA Adam NovakCorrelation doesn’t imply causality, but Diane Greene’s achievement is emblematic of a deeper trend that I and others have observed over the years: companies that recruit and promote women and people of color outperform companies that don’t. Diversity isn’t a cynical PR move. It’s a shrewd business strategy. It’s meritocracy practiced as a commitment to change, rather than as a lazy justification for maintaining the status quo.

This is a big part of why I support the Ada Initiative. The Ada Initiative’s anti-harassment policies and codes of conduct have been adopted across the software industry, from technical conferences to startup incubators. They’re creating safe spaces for women and other under-represented people to contribute their talents and perspectives to the world. These changes eliminate wasted potential and improve outcomes. Not implementing them is fiscally irresponsible.

Two women reclining and hugging

Rachel and Jean Chalmers

All that said, my support for TAI goes far beyond calculating profit and loss. I’ve written here before about the awesome education I was lucky enough to get. My mother, who died in February, was more than a match for me intellectually – crosswords were effortless to her, and she wiped the floor with me in Scrabble.

But she came of age in 1953, when the options for clever working-class women from the north of England were dire. She was the first in her family to attend college, but like so many in that position, she lacked the support she needed to graduate. It’s the world’s loss as much as hers. Who knows what she might have achieved? Mum did a brilliant job playing the hand she was dealt, but the game was rigged. I work with TAI to get everyone a fairer deal.

I encourage you to do the same.

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