Apart from sparking widespread protests and renewing conversation around inequalities in the United States, George Floyd’s murder in the spring of 2020 also spurred a slew of promises from Corporate America that they’d do something to address the inequities in the system.
But how much has actually been accomplished? Reading our coverage of those months, it feels like the venture capital and startup world was on to something, going by their commitments to start doing something to address the lack of diversity in their corner of the corporate ecosystem. In the past three years, a lot of companies launched DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) initiatives, and we even saw a brief period when those promises were fulfilled. But now it seems a lot of those promises have disappeared.
When the market was on the up and up, Black founders, like many other founders out there, were raising record amounts. But come 2022, the market dipped, interest rates skyrocketed, investments nearly froze, hiring slowed, and widespread layoffs hit everyone. Indeed, 2023 saw 44% fewer DEI job postings compared to last year, and Google and Meta have reportedly laid off some employees in charge of recruiting workers from underrepresented backgrounds.
Today, it almost feels like many of the promises the venture capital industry made in 2020 have gone unfulfilled. To find out exactly how many kept their word, we checked up on some of those that made commitments to DEI following the BLM protests in 2020.
Who kept their word?
We first reached out to Sequoia. In 2020, the investment firm had said that it would build a more “inclusive team” and start working more with historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to diversify its limited partner pipeline. In June 2020, Insider reported that Sequoia did not have a Black partner, but it appears the firm has since hired one, per its website. A rep at the firm told TechCrunch+ that Sequoia did add more HBCUs as investors to its funds but declined to share more details.
Honestly, that was heartening to hear. HBCUs lack the economic and social opportunities that many predominantly white institutions already receive, and having influential funds like Sequoia work with them is essential for creating wealth-building opportunities for the schools and their students. Sequoia did not comment on its hiring plans.
Nearly all the firms we called had one or two Black partners on staff. That’s great, considering that only 3% of investors are Black, per a survey by NVCA and Deloitte, and only 2% of decision-makers at venture firms are Black.