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Kiera Smalls to CEOs of Philly tech: ‘Do better’

Philly Startup Leaders' executive director issues a call to action for local biz leaders to respond to systemic racism.

Philly Startup Leaders' 2019 A Seat at the Table dinner. (Photo by Paige Gross)

Editor’s note: This guest post is adapted from a letter Philly Startup Leaders Executive Director Kiera Smalls emailed to about 350 members of PSL’s CEO group on Sunday evening. It is reprinted here with permission and appears as part of a series of short guest posts from local leaders on how they are addressing the issue of systemic racism with their organizations.

Subject line: A Note From PSL Executive Director: Black Lives Matter


Dear CEOs of Philly Tech,

I am shaking as I type this note to you. Many of you are aware of what’s been happening in this country for the last 400 years … and this past week. I am writing this short note for two reasons:

1. Check on your Black and Brown employees. This week and ongoing. Give them space and time to grieve, heal, and process trauma.

Resource: Your Black Colleagues May Look Like They’re Okay — Chances Are They’re Not

2. Do better. We have to collectively dismantle racism to truly progress this country forward. We’ve seen tech CEOs from large firms publicly speak out against injustice, and we are calling on Philly’s startup community to do the same. We’ve already seen great examples from local leaders and encourage more to use their platform and privilege to raise awareness and commit to transformative change.

To start: Educate yourself on the history of Black people in America, understand where riots stem from, check your privilege and fragility, have hard and uncomfortable conversations with your network, and make your staff/board/portfolio more racially diverse. Here’s a list of recommended reading, too.

PSL has been working hard to develop diverse founders. We recently received $150,000 from the City’s Commerce Department to administer grants to founders from underrepresented communities. Due to City budget cuts, this may be the first and last time this happens. Consider joining us in helping get more Black and Brown founders to the start line of building a scalable tech company in Philadelphia.

Together, we can make our startup ecosystem more reflective of the demographics of our city — and help all communities truly progress forward. If you’re interested in learning more, please message me directly.

Companies: Philly Startup Leaders
Series: Racial Equity Month 2020

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