An Introduction to Combating Discrimination in Your Startup

For many startups, “inclusivity” is a buzzword that lets entrepreneurs pat themselves on the back without actually doing anything. You can take a stance against discrimination, but unless you’re taking active measures to thwart it, you’re going to be complicit in it. These are some things you can do to fight against discrimination in your new startup.

Why it Matters

A workplace becomes a second home for employees, and if a home feels hostile, employees are going to struggle to come. Everyone doesn’t need to be best friends with one another, but there should be a baseline of respect. Employees who are hostile to others can let that toxicity flow into the rest of the workplace. Before you know it, there’s a pall hanging over the entire startup. On the contrary, when employees are respectful to one another, there can be an amazing boost in morale and work performance. You need to show your employees that your startup is a place where anyone who wants to feel welcomed will feel welcomed.

Kinds of Discrimination

“Discrimination” is one word to describe a lot of things. There’s race discrimination, gender discrimination, sexual orientation discrimination, age discrimination, and other types. Gender discrimination can take many forms, so you should always be on the lookout for it. Employees could make demeaning jokes or insulting remarks based on gender as a means of undermining an employee’s confidence. If an employee expresses discomfort about a coworker but doesn’t elaborate as to why, it could be that they’re facing discrimination.

Hiring Diversity

Your hiring practices can go a long way in terms of combatting discrimination. If everyone in your workplace falls under the same general demographic umbrella, it can reflect very poorly on you. You can’t expect to combat discrimination by keeping different groups of people apart from each other. Instead, you need to create a culture of diversity and understanding. Having seminars on sensitivity training can help people realize when their words and actions can be considered hostile. If someone is unable to or refuses to comply with such guidelines, let them know that they’re free to leave if they don’t want to listen. You can also show them the door yourself.


Creating a successful startup is a massive undertaking, but you should never consider combatting discrimination as something to put on the sideline. Discrimination is never something that resolves itself. It involves the efforts of allies to listen and fight back. You could be a hero of your startup strictly by standing up for what’s right and showing people that discrimination has no home in the workplace.

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