How you live diversity and inclusion in your startup

(Gender) diversity, inclusion, equal opportunities, gender pay gap. All words show that we are not yet living equality completely. But what does diversity actually mean? And how does it differ from inclusion? We clarify the terms and show you why diversity is so important for teams, no matter if startup or corporate.

Diversity vs. inclusion – What is what?


Variety of people – that’s what diversity is. It aims at the recognition and equality of all people. It is about the positive evaluation of differences.

In this context, the term encompasses various dimensions, such as:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Origin
  • Religion
  • Sexual orientation and
  • Physical and mental abilities.

Also diversity occurs at different levels: in society, in groups, teams, organisations and in individuals. In recent years, the term has become a veritable buzzword. And for good reason. You see, diversity is a central factor for change and progress.

Studies have proven (see for example the study by BCG and MassChallenge) that diverse teams are more innovative and successful. Companies benefit from the different perspectives, experiences and backgrounds of the members.


An important sub-aspect of diversity is gender diversity. Women are still extremely underrepresented in founding teams and boards.

report by McKinsey from 2017 shows that diverse teams are more profitable than average in terms of gender. For example, companies with a balanced proportion of women in top management are 21% more likely to be successful than average.

With ONE MISSION, we are tackling the issue of gender diversity. Five key challenges for women entrepreneurs have emerged: Network, Mindset, Family & Career, Financing and Gender Stereotypes. ONE MISSION creates a platform for networking within the startup ecosystem to tackle the challenges together.


Whereas diversity refers to the mix itself, inclusion makes the mix possible. In other words, companies are proactively open to diversity. And create an environment in which all people – regardless of gender, skin colour or conviction – are treated fairly and with respect. All employees can express themselves openly (psychological safety) and always feel valued and included. If, in addition, all employees are given the same opportunities and resources to grow, inclusion is successfully lived.

Why diversity is so important for startups

A cognitively and demographically diverse team promotes innovation and competitiveness to respond to challenging international markets. Diverse team understand their own target group much better. All of this increases the success of a company.

Studies show that diverse perspectives, new views and approaches lead to better business results. And employees who feel valued and safe are healthier and more engaged.

Especially when it comes to culture and background, many startups are already very well positioned. The majority of startups are already international at the beginning. But in other dimensions, startups still have some catching up to do. In only about 33.5% of startups in Germany is at least one woman represented as a (co-)founder. Especially in the tech sector, women are still strongly underrepresented. We say: There’s still room for improvement!

6 tips for more diversity in your own startup

But how can startups become more diverse? And what do you do when only men from Germany apply for jobs? We have a few tips for your startup on how to increase diversity and inclusion.

1. Adapt your recruiting processes

Often only very similar people apply for a job. What is the reason for this? One reason is certainly the job advertisement. Of course, it is not enough to simply say (m/f/d/x). Use a proactive approach and use gender-conforming terms. In addition, pointing out that not all requirements have to be met 100 per cent can work wonders. Include not only technical skills but also soft skills in your description. And: Look for applicants in professional networks, e.g. for women or for other countries of origin.

2. Show yourself diverse

The external perception of a startup is enormously important. The more diverse and open you position your startup, the more diverse the applications will be. For example, you can make diversity clear on the homepage. What are the values of your company and how is the team structured? It also helps to expand your network and, if necessary, to appear authentically diverse in the media.

3. Create psychological safety

When team members know that they can always talk about anything without embarrassing themselves, this is called psychological safety. Especially in diversity teams, the differences between people are often great and insecurities arise. However, when employees feel psychologically safe, they interact more with each other and end up being more creative and address mistakes.

4. Adapt your internal structures

Actively ask your staff about their needs. For example, is an inclusive design of the premises, such as for breastfeeding mothers or religious needs, useful? Or does the team want training or a clear code of conduct? Adapt the internal structures, not top down, but bottom up. For a better work-life balance, for example, part-time double-headers and a flexible working time model are also a good idea. It is also important that development opportunities and promotion prospects are identical for all employees.

5. Break down stereotypes

Consciously or unconsciously: we all think in stereotypes from time to time. Break this up in the whole team. Unconscious bias training is particularly suitable for this. Here, unconscious thought patterns are made conscious and tools are given to eliminate discriminatory behaviour.

6. Give role models a stage

Last but not least, it always helps to make role models visible. Ideally, they should act as ambassadors within (and perhaps even outside) your startup. This encourages, eliminates stereotypes and spurs on.

Good luck and stay diverse!