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Diversity at startups? Not so much

For startups, having formal plans to address diversity just isn't a priority.

A new survey reveals how startups feel about diversity.
Oli Scarff, Getty Images

If the tech industry is concerned about diversity, the startup world hasn't gotten the memo.

That's according to a new survey out Thursday from early-stage investment firm First Round Capital.

For its report, titled State of Startups 2016, the firm surveyed more than 700 founders (83 percent of whom were male) in August and September, not limited to First Round companies. Asked about diversity and inclusion, a large swath said they lacked a formal strategy for addressing the issue.

Fifty-four percent said their strategy was informal, 23 percent said they had no strategy or plans to create one, and 9 percent are planning to adopt a strategy. Only 14 percent said their company had formal plans or policies for promoting diversity and inclusion.

First Round Capital didn't immediately respond to a request for additional comment.

In the past several years, large tech companies including Microsoft, Google, Apple, Facebook and Intel have started releasing regular diversity reports, along with launching a variety of initiatives and partnerships aimed at boosting the numbers of women and minorities in their ranks, particularly in technical roles. In November, Microsoft said it would tie diversity goals to executives' compensations. Companies like Intel are increasingly vocal about improving their numbers.

Also in the report, 50 percent said their ratio of men and women employees was heavily weighted toward men, while 31 percent said their ratio stood around 50:50. Meanwhile, 61 percent said their boards are completely male.

And the long view? Most respondents said it will take 14 years for the tech industry more broadly to reach the same gender and ethnic makeup that exists in the US.

When asked about why women and minorities are underrepresented in tech, male founders tended to see the root of the problem as a pipeline issue, which refers to the idea that there aren't enough women or minorities entering the tech industry. Women mostly pegged the problem to a lack of role models and factors like unconscious bias during hiring and promotions.