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What Impact does COVID-19 have on Diversity Progress in Tech?

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During the ongoing global health crisis, the tech sector has proven to be one of the most resilient. Many tech companies are seeing an uptick in demand due to the growing adoption of remote work and the need for innovation in healthcare. Although many early-stage startups are struggling to adapt to the 'new normal' setting, tech entrepreneurs have gone through economic crises before, helping them to show endurance during the current crisis.

Further, the stimulus packages provided by the government will have a positive impact on the tech industry and revive the digital economy. Many experts believe that the measures taken by the government will provide much-needed support to various innovative companies during these testing times. In a recent survey conducted by Tech London Advocates, more than 50% of tech startups are considering survival to be their top-most priority for the next three months.

Diversity and inclusion

Although the industry and government are focused on maintaining stability in the short-term, if not given proper attention, we risk ignoring one of the sector's prevalent issues – diversity and inclusion. In a review last year, it was seen that there is a significant gap between businesses founded by males and females when it comes to reaching a certain amount in funding. Hence, women are facing a lot more funding barriers when starting up a business compared to men.

The innovative tech companies praised for being quick to adapt to the challenges posed by the coronavirus. However, the strategies used to overcome such difficulties might have also impaired several early-stage startups, making it challenging for them to stay afloat. Not all digital businesses will see the other side of the coronavirus crisis, but the progress that we have made so far in diversity and inclusion could get impacted.

Most startups founded by diverse entrepreneurs seek funding through alternative means, including angel investors and family offices. With the government initiative to only support MSMEs, it has created a barrier for startups that do not meet such criteria. Hence, the schemes introduced by the government leaves out early-stage startups that are founded by female and LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs.

Private and public collaboration

The support packages introduced by the government should take into account the suggestions provided by both the private and public sectors. The collaborative effort will help to refine and improve such schemes so that it covers as many businesses as possible. The effort put forth by various agencies will help to make the support schemes more inclusive not just for entrepreneurs from underrepresented communities, but for everyone.

For maximum representation, the private sector should engage with the government, providing them with the knowledge they need to make sure that no one is left behind. Additionally, the government needs to come up with new plans to assist under-represented founders.

Recruiting talent from a diverse pool

The tech companies need to hire people from a wide range of backgrounds, and campaign for diversity and inclusion within the sector. As we all feel the impact of the pandemic, we need to ensure that we are not leaving anyone behind. The tech sector needs to understand the possibilities that diversity brings to innovation and our overall economy. Most importantly, if we do not act now, we risk losing the years of progress we've made on diversity and inclusion, limiting the opportunities that we will have on the other side.

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