Building empathy from day one
I've been very fortunate in my life. I grew up in one of the most multi-cultural, diverse regions in Canada, a progressive country where we've had national gay marriage for 10 years, with a family that had the resources to support my obsession with technology from a young age (I made my first website in 1998).
In 2002, when I was 16, I came out as gay to a collective shrug. I had a great support network of friends and role models, and was even elected as president of student council. Being gay hasn't been a hindrance in my life, and I attribute so much of that to the wonderful, diverse community we have in Kitchener-Waterloo.
But not everyone has the opportunity to feel safe being themselves. People should be recognized for their passion, pursuits, and accomplishments – not what we see on the outside (like gender, race, or sexual orientation). In the tech community a lot of works remains to foster a truly an inclusive environment for people of colour, women and girls, LGBTQ, and countless other groups.
As a society, we need to create more role models in business. In the Fortune 500, there are 26 female CEOs (23 are white), only 6 black, 10 hispanic, and 10 asian CEOs, and there is one openly gay CEO (hi Tim!). I have two nieces: they have role models to become doctors, dancers, lawyers, and nurses – but who do they look up to to be entrepreneurs or engineers?
Growing up with two older sisters, I saw the opportunities I was afforded – that they weren't – simply because I'm a man. It isn't fair to them. They've helped me be aware of the bias built into culture, the advantage I have by being the boy in the family. Being gay makes me aware of how uncomfortable situations arise from seemingly harmless comments, like male coworkers conversing about a woman's appearance, or saying "gay" when they mean "stupid."
All this is to say: there is very much a problem that needs to be solved.
Giving back from day one
Empathy is about understanding how someone else views the world. It's the core value we're building FunnelCake upon. From a customer-focused development model to the people we are going to hire, we're focused on getting new perspectives. But even this post is still a white man sharing his views of how others see the world. That has to change.
This is why we donated 1% equity in our company to charity, and why we think more founders should too.
When we're successful, we want to share that success with others. Our goal with Upside and Pledge 1% is to help charities who create opportunities for women and girls, LGBTQ youth, and people of colour in tech, design, and entrepreneurship. We need everyone's perspectives to make the future. We can't just choose to listen to the community; to truly have a voice, we need to make sure everyone has the chance to build the future they want to live in.
If a rising tide lifts all boats, and you're not on a boat... you're still screwed. Let's give back and build a boat for everyone.
People are how you change the world
If you're a founder, we strongly urge you to take the pledge and donate 1% of your time, equity, or product with Pledge 1% or the Upside Foundation of Canada. Technology can only do so much to change the world. People do the rest.