Sean Rad, the co-founder and chairman of popular dating app Tinder, voiced his company's support for the transgender community Friday while speaking at a panel during the South by Southwest conference in Austin.

The Tinder community is one that values diversity and inclusion of all genders and -- though it may be controversial in the current political climate -- Rad says it's his job and responsibility to represent users.

"I've always seen my role, and anyone in leadership...is to listen to your community. You're representing a group of individuals, and in Tinder's case, you're representing tens of millions of people, and you want to do what's right by all of them and the overall ecosystem," Rad said before hundreds of conference attendees.

"In a way, I think these corporate leaders need to recognize that they are in a way political leaders," added Rad. "You're representing an audience that is connected with you and looking to you for a certain parts of their lives, and you have a responsibility there."

Rad was speaking on a panel titled "Swiping Right on Inclusivity with Tinder & GLAAD," which delved into the various approaches Tinder has taken to ensure its community could be more inclusive of transgender individuals. In November the dating app expanded the number of genders users could choose from, while also allowing them to write in whatever term they might identify with.

"Tinder is about everyone, everyone's welcome and everyone deserves to meet someone special," Rad said.

Rad's comments come a tricky time for the tech industry, which historically leans progressive on social matters. Tech entrepreneurs have found themselves at odds with the policies of President Trump, who many consumers consider to be a racist, sexist and xenophobe.

The Tinder panel comes just weeks after Trump rolled back federal protections that allowed transgender students to use bathrooms of their choice at public schools. Additionally, Rads comments come as the Texas Legislature considers a bill that would require people to use bathrooms assigned to the gender listed on their birth certificates.

After the panel, Rad spoke with Inc., saying anyone who hopes to be a good entrepreneur and business leader must listen to their customers, understand them and empathize with them.

"If you don't make it a priority to be inclusive and understand your users, you're not going to build great products," Rad said.

Additionally, Rad -- whose company claims a user count into the high tens of millions -- said companies that want to reach huge, global audiences must inherently take on approaches that are diverse and inclusive of all.

"If you want to grow your company to attract the largest body of users, you need to have diversity baked into everything you do or else you won't understand your customers," Rad said.

Published on: Mar 10, 2017