Apart from igniting widespread protests and reigniting discourse on inequalities in the United States, the tragic murder of George Floyd in the spring of 2020 also triggered a wave of promises from Corporate America to take action and address the systemic injustices.
But the question remains, how much progress has actually been made? When looking back at our coverage of that time, it seems like the venture capital and startup world were eager to make a change, with many making commitments to promote diversity in their slice of the corporate landscape. However, despite numerous initiatives launched in the past three years and a brief period of progress, it appears that many of these promises have now faded into obscurity.
As the market was booming, Black entrepreneurs and founders, along with their counterparts, were raising record amounts. But when the year turned to 2022, the market took a downturn, interest rates skyrocketed, investments slowed down, hiring came to a halt, and widespread layoffs affected everyone. As a result, the number of diversity, equity, and inclusion job listings in 2023 decreased by 44% compared to the previous year. Even tech giants like Google and Meta allegedly laid off employees responsible for recruiting from underrepresented communities.
It’s disheartening to see that many of the promises made by the venture capital industry in 2020 have not come to fruition. To determine just how many have kept their word, we followed up on some of the firms that pledged to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion after the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020.
Who has stayed true to their commitments?
- We first reached out to Sequoia. In 2020, the investment firm announced its intention to build a more inclusive team and establish partnerships with historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to diversify its limited partner pipeline.
In June 2020, Insider reported that Sequoia did not have a single Black partner. However, according to its website, it appears that they have since hired one. A representative from the firm who spoke with TechCrunch+ confirmed that they have indeed added more HBCUs as investors to their funds, but declined to provide additional details.
This was encouraging news. HBCUs have historically lacked the same economic and social opportunities as predominantly white institutions, and having influential firms like Sequoia collaborate with them can help create wealth-building opportunities for these schools and their students. Sequoia did not comment on their plans for future hiring.
In general, most of the firms we contacted had at least one or two Black partners on their team. This is a positive development, considering that only 3% of investors are Black, according to a survey by NVCA and Deloitte, and only 2% of decision-makers at venture capital firms are Black.