Culture

Building a Better Startup for Women

Ben Stephenson's pictureBen Stephenson
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Startups can be a whirlwind of excitement, innovation and creativity for many, but for some, they can be chaotic, isolating and unfair.

We're currently looking to expand our team, and we've put specific emphasis on our D&I initiative because if we're being completely honest with ourselves, we have a lot of work to do. Everybody has a lot of work to do!

We know that a startup can often seem like a homogenous cult of ping-pong playing hooded tops. As a startup we made a commitment that we wanted to challenge (and never be) the stereotype that so many conjure up when they think of startup culture.

We can't claim to be perfect yet, but that's certainly our intended destination. Here's what we're doing to build a better startup for women.

Female leaders

If you want to progress and work as a leader, you won't be the only female sitting in a managerial meeting.

You won't be the honorary female hire that you see too often in the startup world.

The women in our business are truly amazing: Tilly our Head of People Operations, Jo our Chief of Staff, Mafalda, El, Ellie and Natalie in our Product/Engineering teams are just some of the women we want to celebrate. It would be difficult to name everybody as we're currently at a 40:60 female-male ratio (in a company of 50).

We actively strive to have an inclusive culture, and what we mean by this is that there's no bravado or gossip, and there is a zero tolerance policy towards sexism, race bias and discrimination. We're also far ahead of companies our size by publishing a culture deck and our D&I deck.

What this means is that you'll be working with amazing people, regardless of gender and at all levels.

Let's talk about the kids

Maternity and paternity are often topics that are considered taboo, rarely spoken about from both employer and employee for the fear of saying the wrong thing, or, because their policy isn't equal.

We want women to know that if they work at Impala, not only do we offer maternity pay far above statutory requirements, but we're also working towards parity between maternity and paternity pay.

Why is that important for promoting women? It means that no-one can ever make a hiring decision based on the economics of employing someone that may have children.

If you're thinking of starting a family today, tomorrow or in 10 years' time - we want you to know that we'll support you every step of the way!

Teething problems

We won't reel off all of the common problems that startups encounter, but some include: rapid growth, lack of diversity and lack of structure when it comes to benefits and time off!

Now, we aren't saying we're picture perfect when it comes to these things, but we wanted to highlight some of the processes that we've put in place so we are tackling potential bumps in the road head on.

We've grown very quickly over the last few years, but we've always been laser-focused on growing sustainably. If done properly, you can still achieve fast growth whilst continuing to cultivate the things that matter!

One of the main things we've looked at in depth is our salary and benefits packages, and ensured that this has catered to both men and women equally at Impala.

Our Health and Wellbeing scheme offers Impalan's a range of options to look after mental health & physical wellbeing in a way that is meaningful for a range of tastes and personalities

  • We offer Vitality Health Insurance
  • We have a 'Loved Ones' budget for our remote Impalans, to bring friends/family over to visit - no matter how near or far from home you're based!
  • We offer 36 days holiday
  • Each Impalan is allocated a Professional Development Budget per year, so you can grow and thrive
  • We offer 3x the average annual raise in the UK
  • 'Unsick Day' so the doctors or dentists appointment isn't pushed back! It means you get enough time to look after yourself without sacrificing precious Holiday days.
  • Yearly access to Headspace, as well as access to Perkbox
  • Sanctus mental health

Aside from the overall benefits that we offer, we wanted to highlight some of the more nitty gritty stuff that we also pioneer, as we believe for women in particular this is incredibly important.

Bias (whether unconscious or conscious) is a genuine issue when it comes to hiring, and we wanted to make a conscious decision (pardon the pun) to address it.

Our partnership with Paradigm allows us to all have external bias training, which not only improves our hiring processes but it also allows for us to be accountable when working as a team.

The whole idea of using Paradigm is to get people in our organisation thinking differently, and reflecting on their own behaviour, rather than treating it as a tick box exercise to make us all feel better.

It's time to say goodbye to imposter syndrome

Imposter syndrome is a pesky feeling, and it can feel magnified when working in a startup.

We know that the business community is more responsive to masculine characters in leadership; whether that's communication styles or philosophies.

We understand that for women in particular, imposter syndrome is rife due to many invalidations in the workplace - this could be comments on you being of "child bearing age" or that you're emotional, or other similar micro-aggressions. It can also come from verbal abuse and misogyny in the workplace.

This type of gaslighting behavior can deter women from entering startups because these comments can feel magnified, and without the proper systems in place (such as a HR function, or a leader to confide in) it further feeds the notion that startups are less attractive to women.

This month we're providing training on overcoming imposter syndrome, as well as other training sessions on the importance of inclusion. Having these schemes are important to us not for external validation, but because we want to be better.

We know to find great leaders and amazing talent simply wouldn't be possible without amazing women in our team.

We're currently hiring: https://careers.getimpala.com/ and we'd love you to be a part of our team.

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