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Stories - Mar 27, 2017

Let's talk about how (if) you're attracting and engaging a diverse talent pool

Posted by Rina Espiritu of Pressly for Venture Out

Venture Out lunch panel aka mic drops on mic drops on mic drops

There are over 2,000 startups in the Toronto - Waterloo corridor (right now... the number is only getting bigger).

The good news: That's a lot of opportunity.

The hard news: Many of these startups are going to see fast, exciting and difficult growth in coming years which will bring challenges with employee recruitment and onboarding.

So one of the big questions during this lunch panel session was:

How will you have meaningful conversations about your organization's core values and build a quality environment?

In other words, how do you insure that your company is filling roles that will benefit not only the product or service but also the company culture as a whole? AND how will you facilitate healthy working relationships wherein your employees feel confident being their authentic selves?

.HR Professional Larissa Holmes responded with, "The core values have to come from the top down, from the leadership."

She also added that growth is seen as evolving behaviour and expectations. How an organization operates today is going to be different than how it operates tomorrow. Therefore, "Leadership should focus on embracing that change on a day-to-day basis." Leadership partnered with HR can effectively work to solve the harsh impact of rapid growth.'s Director of Talent Avery Francis asserted that engaging with the under-represented is everyone's responsibility and also noted that building a diversity-minded recruiting team is crucial to sustainability. A shift in roles and skill sets should be built into an organization's growth strategy.

One of the mic drops from this session.

In's case, it doesn't start at the interview level. They go deeper into the issue by creating opportunities for aspiring, female developers - which nurtures a more diverse talent pool.


If you're building and selling a product that is intended for a broad range of users, you probably want a broad range of employees to power that product.

"If we’re going to be a consumer-facing product, we’re going to need to represent the consumer. "
Eva Wong, COO of Borrowell

The topics covered in this panel were not one-sided either. While leadership and shaping a positive culture were prominent, so too were the conversations geared to applicants. More often than not, applicants will want a job badly enough to not screen the company. PSA to applicants: Do your research on the company and its culture.


Lydia Sarkovski of Salesforce addressed developing work conditions and practices that will have employees feeling confident on an ongoing basis. She recounts a situation where one of her staff admitted to having a difficult time with productivity because they weren't able to come out to their colleagues in the workplace.

She later said that, such sentiments are frequently left unsaid and recommended that companies conduct surveys of what's missing in the company culture that could otherwise offer a sense of safety and inclusion for employees. This type of open dialogue is something any applicant can and should ask about in their interviews so they understand right away where they might stand in a company.


Now we turn the focus back to our 2,000 local startups and ask:

How will you build a sense of inclusion
in your company?

Posted by Rina Espiritu of Pressly for Venture Out