#BLM: Making a Commitment to Tackle Bias in Business…

I rarely append a personal note to these Innovation mailers, but thought I would this time. 

Tomorrow – Friday 19th June – is Juneteenth, a day that commemorates the liberation of 4 million black slaves at the end of north–American civil war in 1865 – not commonly acknowledged in the UK. But, as we’re currently being reminded by the global BLM protests,  systemic racism did not end then, in the US, or here.  It’s been over two decades since the spotlight was shone on institutional racism in the UK by the MacPhearson report in the UK: again as the result of the racist murder of a young black male. In Northern Ireland from January 2000 there’s been a statutory obligation to promote equality of opportunity.  Yet we have a long way to go: race inequality plays–out in nearly every index life outcome.

Closer to our area of activity, albeit in the US, according to CB Insights the black founder funding rate was 10 times below demographic equity; “In 2015, only 1% of funded startup founders were black, but made up 11% of the overall US population.” Whilst I don’t have the UK stats to hand, there’s no reason to believe that closer to home the hurdles for creating black or ethnic minority businesses is any lower. 

Rather than simply make a statement of solidarity with BLM or restate our institutional commitment to equality of opportunity – which is vital – I suggest that we look to actively monitor the composition of our innovation programmes, our pipeline, and to make positive efforts to promote better diversity and inclusion.  We have started to weave some inclusion metrics into our Enterprise Programmes. Since March, we have been focusing on improving the diversity of participants in our Lean Launch Programme. We’ve started to think actively about seeking applications from under–represented groups more broadly. 

We have as an institution spoken about our intentions on gender inclusion and opposition to racism.  But from now on I think we should  be looking to ensure that we practically promote participation of potential entrepreneurs from Black and Ethnic minority backgrounds.  

I’m conscious that I’ve been slow to act on this and hope this wake–up call stimulates some change for the better.  Ultimately, only real improved diversity outcomes will count, and by tracking this data, and corrective efforts, I hope we can hold ourselves to account.  If by this time next Junteenth we can’t show a difference then this note will simply be warm–words. 

Brian McCaul 

CEO Qubis Ltd 

Please get in touch with Dr Amanda McCullough, Lean Start–Up Programmes Manager at a.mccullough@qub.ac.uk to register your interest.