Is climate tech missing out? LGBTQ+ on hiding their identities
This LGBTQ+ History Month, Carbon13’s cofounder and Chief Sustainability and Innovation Officer Nicky Dee shares her thoughts on queer representation in entrepreneurship.
LGBTQ+ founders in tech and climate tech
Clearly there is a problem. A recent survey found that three quarters of LGBTQ+ founders hide their identity from investors. While 45% thought it was not relevant, 35% thought their ability to raise funding had been affected by their LGBTQ+ identity. Unfortunately we don’t have great data to go on, but we know that the European venture scene has much to improve. Just 1% of VC funding went to all-women founding teams in 2022 and Black founders raised 0.25% of UK VC funding between 2009-19. It also found that 79% of LGBTQ+ investors sometimes hide their identity from others in the industry. This problem isn’t single sided.
" 35% of LGBTQ+ founders hide their identity from investors as they believed it would affect their ability to raise funding"
In the UK the 2021 Census asked for the first time about how people identify in terms of their sexual orientation. Around 1.5 million people (3.2%) identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or another sexual orientation (LGB+). 1.5% of respondents identified as gay or lesbian (around 748,000) while 1.3% (628,000) identified as bisexual. A further 0.3% (165,000) people identified with a different sexual orientation.
In another study conducted in 2011 it was discovered that adults were 2 to 3 times more likely to say that they have same-sex attraction or behaviour than identify as LGB (against a baseline of ~3.5% identifying as LGB in the U.S.)
Inclusivity and bias in climate tech
There has been a huge shift in how the world responds to LGBTQ+. I remember marching against section 28 before it was repealed in 2003, so for the U.S. to propose “don’t say gay” laws in 2022 it is wildly disappointing. I always thought this was an illogical perspective. After all if talking about a sexuality made it so, we would all be straight. I grew up when LGBTQ+ was poorly represented and discussed anywhere. So much so, that part of my own coming out¹ meant addressing my own homophobic stereotypes.
I remember a brilliant session highlighting some of our biases which asked how many people wanted to associate with various identities by raising their hands. This was over 10 years ago. In a group of ~70 people, I and possibly others, did not raise our hands on being asked who was LGB. The point was made. Identifying as non-heteronormative was a risk. A risk of being ignored, undermined, or made out as some modern day “witch”. Not good for networking.
I have wondered if being part of an under-represented group actually plays well in the field of entrepreneurship. A test of tenacity, self-awareness, and assertiveness when you aren’t going along with the norm. But of course, with time you realise the idea of normality is fairly superficial, as is putting people into groups and deciding who is in or out of the club. I think of inclusivity these days as humanity. Especially when the alternative is hate crimes such as the murder of Brianna Ghey.
And the truth is, people who are LGBTQ+ are already everywhere and always have been (except still weirdly absent in men’s football²). Tim Cook (CEO of Apple), Peter Thiel (former CEO of PayPal), Martine Rothblatt, Ph.D (founder of Sirius XM, United Therapeutics and Lung Biotechnology), Beth Ford (President and CEO Land O’Lakes) – just a handful of notable names judged as successful in business and LGBTQ+ by various “lists”.
Inclusivity at its core is the idea that everyone can turn up as they are without fear or hiding. That people are indeed at their best if they aren’t expelling energy on pretending to be something they are not. There is of course a line³ in society, but on the whole most people are just wanting to go about their lives.
Carbon13 is committed to making its Venture Builder an inclusive space
Carbon13 takes inclusivity seriously, but we also know there is more work to be done. We collect data and are regularly reviewing how we do better. We hope we already have programmes which are inclusive. We provide basic training on diversity, equity and inclusion for all our founders, and ask them how they will build organisations where their hiring policies, operations and culture are inclusive and employees can thrive. We also aim to educate our wider community and remain active in seeking under-represented founders. But we know we cannot do this alone.
This is where you come in. If you think we should be talking to a particular group or organisation about Carbon13 and how we support founders, please do get in touch. And if you have resources we should be sharing with our founders and wider community, we would also love to hear from you.
Resources and groups
Please feel free to share any more relevant resources, groups or events with us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Stonewall provides information, support and guidance on LGBTQ+ inclusion
Lesbians who tech and allies is a community of LGBTQ women, non-binary and trans individuals in and around tech (and the people who support them)
The Royal Society of Chemistry published this useful list of resources for the LGBTQ community, their allies and employers:
- A delightful term which makes it sound like a one time thing, but “coming out” is often needed many many times
- The point I’m making is not that LGBTQ+ don’t play football, more that people are not openly LGBTQ+ in men’s football.
- Particularly serious crime