Known as "Silicon Valley's most inclusive investor" Ben Horowitz thinks the rest of the tech industry needs to up its game when it comes to diversity in the workplace.
Speaking at the Lean Startup Conference in San Francisco on Wednesday, the prominent venture capitalist addressed the issue now on everyone's minds with Lean Startup founder Eric Ries.
"The opinion on why Silicon Valley is not diverse enough because there are not enough qualified people from certain groups is unsatisfactory to me," Horowitz says, whose portfolio at VC firm Andreessen Horowitz includes Airbnb, Lyft and Pinterest.
Several studies have proven that diversity in the workplace leads to a more innovative company, but Silicon Valley is still lagging behind. Earlier this year, the perception that tech companies lacked a diverse workforce was confirmed when Google, Yahoo and LinkedIn released disappointing diversity data.
Horowitz shared two high-impact strategies that startups can employ in the short term to create a more diverse workplace.
Create connections and network
Horowitz is on the board of CODE2040, an organization that recruits young Black and Latino students from across the country who would otherwise not have any connections in the tech world and helps them get internships in Silicon Valley. According to Horowitz, these students have the programming skills to make them valuable employees, shooting down the argument that there are not enough qualified applicants to make Silicon Valley representative of the general population.
"These kids do great at the companies," Horowitz says. "It's about about building that bridge and making them feel welcome."
Understand why we profile
"One thing that nobody admits but every company and every manager does is profile," Horowitz says. Hiring managers tend to subconsciously assign more value to candidates who resemble them culturally.
"You see it in any company: If you hire a woman to be a head of engineer you are going to have way more women engineers, if you hire a Chinese person to run marketing you are going to have more Chinese people in marketing," Horowitz says.
Even at his own firm, he recognized this pattern when the head of marketing, Margit Wennmachers, brought onboard all women as her first six hires. This is not a bad thing, but Horowitz encourages hiring managers to undersand their own profiles so that their diversity strategy is not all about checking boxes.
"You can't just say, ok we need more Hispanic people," he says. "Different cultures have different cultural strengths and if you don't know what they are then it's hard to get the most value of a diverse workforce."