Black Lives Matter.
Our team stands in solidarity with the BIPOC community and opposes racism in all its forms. By using our resources, voices, and privileges to amplify the voices of those who need to be heard the most, we are committed to doing our part to dismantle systematic racism and injustice. To follow through on this commitment, we have taken action to defend inclusivity and equality in our physical and virtual spaces, and break down barriers for entrepreneurs by expanding access to all of our programming. This includes our #ScaleHere Platform, the Vermont Startup Collective, community events, and membership. We are continuously reflecting and challenging ourselves to see how we can do better, learning from experts on inclusion, expanding education for our startups, and attending conferences to build the tools we need to combat racism on a systemic level. We are also working to amplify the voices of BIPOC entrepreneurs and investors in the white male-dominated world of tech, innovation, and entrepreneurship.
Our coworking space and our online community welcome all. These are environments where all can feel safe, respected, and valued. We cherish and celebrate the diversity of humanity, which includes differences in sex, race, ethnicity, age, national origin, sexual orientation, range of abilities, gender identity, financial means, education, and perspective. We pledge to do all we can to replace the traditional barriers of power, privilege, exclusion, and oppression with ever-widening circles of solidarity, respect, access, and inclusion.
Specific Actions We’ve Made:
- Removed financial barriers to entry to our coworking space and our programming.
- Our #ScaleHere Platform is a curated list of special offers from partner companies that is meant to break down financial barriers for startups. We’ve expanded access of these perks to VCET members, Startup Collective members, and non-profit innovation hubs around the state of Vermont. We recently partnered with Pluto a workplace inclusion/HR measurement tool and Terminal, a diverse recruiting platform for remote teams, to expand our #ScaleHere Platform perks to support inclusion in our startups and companies, and continue to recruit new partners for the platform.
- Joined the Start Us Up Coalition, in support of America’s New Business Plan, a bipartisan policy roadmap to support entrepreneurs.
- Evaluated the language we use throughout our website, blog posts, and job postings with inclusivity in mind.
- For example, we exchanged the words, “unfair advantages” with “actionable advantages” in the statement on our home page. We felt that the previous phrase, meant to be playful, was not properly reflective of the inclusivity of these advantages. “Simply put, we offer actionable advantages to Vermont’s entrepreneurs through people (the ones you need to know), places (the communities that will support you), and capital (the dollars that will help you scale).”
- Screening our job descriptions and interview process for bias. This is a simple copy/paste tool that is helpful for determining gender bias: http://gender-decoder.katmatfield.com/.
- Added to our on-site library to include the voices of BIPOC authors, including adding racial equity children’s books to Mother’s Room. Members are able to both read these in our space or sign them out and take them home to read.
- Made our space feel welcoming. We added artwork from our favorite BIPOC artists to our walls, hung a Pride flag and BLM flag in our main room, and renamed some of our conference rooms honoring leaders that inspire us (For example, “The Wayne Room” is now “The Winfrey Room”).
- Celebrated and added to our BIPOC female founders, podcast guests, board of directors, team, investments, and members.
- Put up signage on anti-racist behavoirs in our coworking space as visible reminders of our collective values.
Towards ongoing education:
- Partnered with DEI expert and educator, Aleria, to provide events to our community on startup inclusion and ongoing DEI education.
- Attended racial equity training (Race Forward) and DEI conferences and events like, The Women of Color Business Summit (CWE), Diversity and Inclusion Research Conference (Aleria), and Setting the Table for 2021: Uniting to co-create the vision for an inclusive economy (Decade of Courage) in order to enhance our cultural competency and gain the tools to combat racism and injustice head on.
- Joined the conversation (Black Lives Matter of Greater Burlington Community Healing Caucus Meetings, Hidden in Plain Sight: The Truth About Systemic Racism, “RACIAL JUSTICE IN VERMONT PANEL”, the Battery Park Movement)
- In our startup coaching, we expanded the DEI resources and conversations we have with scaling teams.
- Started and continue to moderate the “Dismantling Racism” topic and discussion on the Vermont Startup Collective to promote and facilitate collective learning and accountability.
- Listen to and share the work of Rachel Cargle, Ibram X. Kendi, Jessica Wilson, MS. RD, Layla F. Saad, Alishia McCullough, Brittany Packnett Cunningham, and The Conscious Kid #amplifymelanatedvoices.
- Have read books like How To Be An Antiracist by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad, So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander. We particularly love this list of resources and use it as a reference point.
In our operations:
- Named Juneteenth an official VCET holiday.
- Focused on equitable purchasing and sourcing mindfulness by choosing to support BIPOC and/or local businesses first and foremost. Here is a great compilation of Black-owned online businesses.
- Added a Bias Incident and Microaggression policy to our TOU for all members to review.
- Added an application question to our online community, The Vermont Startup Collective, that goes as follows: “This Collective welcomes all and is an environment where all can feel safe, respected, and valued. We cherish and celebrate the diversity of humanity, which includes differences in sex, race, ethnicity, age, national origin, sexual orientation, range of abilities, gender identity, financial means, education, and perspective. Do you agree to treat others with respect and will you refrain from posting potentially hurtful comments?”
- Contributed small donations to the Peace & Justice Center of Vermont and Black Girl Ventures and encouraged others to do the same.
- Developing a DEI class for entrepreneurs and startup founders to take through the course section of the Vermont Startup Collective. This will provide resources and actionable ways for business owners to build inclusive and equitable companies from the very start.
- Expanding partnerships with global DEI leaders and local racial justice organizations.
- Expanding perks in the ScaleHere Platform and offering them to more entrepreneurs across the State of Vermont.
- Continuing to diversify our boards, podcast guests, Female Founders Speakers, team, investments, and our members; highlighting BIPOC voices, stories, and perspectives.
Anti-racism requires deep reflection, transparency, vulnerability, and action. We are holding ourselves accountable in this work and to these standards as we learn, listen, and do our part to dismantle racism, inequality, and anti-blackness everywhere we see it.
David, Sam, and Phoebe