Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Ethnic diversity: “Let’s take French Tech, the lessons of American malaise”

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Mehdi Tahri, co-founder of Iziwork

“Diversity. While the Black Lives Matter movement is shaking Silicon Valley today like the rest of the United States, French Tech has remained relatively silent on these issues of diversity and discrimination. However, it is enough to participate in the events of digital France to note that the ethnic and cultural homogeneity of the startuppers and investors is probably even more marked than on the other side of the Atlantic.

I am a French entrepreneur, of Moroccan and Spanish origin, and I co-founded the technological start-up Iziwork, which raised 27 million euros (M €) to improve the experience of temporary work. Naturally, this cause is particularly dear to me and I believe it is time to open my eyes. Among the leaders of French start-ups having raised more than € 20 million, people from African or Asian immigration – even third generation – can be counted on the fingers of one hand at best. Obviously, this situation is not specific to young innovative companies. Within the Fortune 500 ranking (Editor’s note: ranking of the top 500 American companies, according to their turnover), currently criticized for its lack of diversity, there are 4 African American CEOs, 16 of Asian origin and 11 of Hispanic origin. In France, the CAC 40 is even less representative of French diversity since no CEO of African or Asian origin is included, with the exception of Lakshmi Mittal who won it when Mittal Steel bought Arcelor Company.

Today, French Tech has the opportunity to lead the way. Start-ups are the figurehead of innovation: they have the agility to quickly adapt their organizations to the most efficient models. However, beyond the obvious injustice caused by ethnic discrimination, depriving oneself of talents from diversity is a source of major ineffectiveness. A McKinsey & Company study, published in 2017, demonstrated the statistically significant correlation between the ethnic and cultural diversity of businesses and their economic outperformance.

Concretely, the change begins with an uncompromising audit. We must break taboos on this subject: we cannot solve a problem without knowing it and the question of ethnic statistics must, in my opinion, be asked. It is also necessary to explicitly include and assume diversity within the values ​​of organizations, and to be intransigent towards discriminatory behavior, even the most trivial. Furthermore, we must tackle the roots of this lack of diversity from a very young age and the self-limiting conditioning of children from ethnic minorities. In particular, I believe that entrepreneurs from these minorities have an important role to play in speaking. They embody reference figures and have the capacity to inspire the vocations of excellence of tomorrow.

It is now essential that the entire French Tech ecosystem is mobilized on this issue of ethnic and cultural diversity. Certainly, as many have pointed out recently, the situation in France is not that of the United States. Nevertheless, the deep divide that American society is experiencing today should serve as a warning. Do not wait until it is too late to act. “

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