It is popular lore that women and minorities are underrepresented in tech startups.
Unfortunately recent evidence suggests that incubators and accelerators are, at least unintentionally, perpetuating that unwanted trend in tech. A 2016 US-centric report written by the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC) and which appears to have been commissioned by JP Morgan Chase & Co, suggests that women and minority entrepreneurs are missing out on the valuable and oh so relevant services that incubators etc provide. For entrepreneurs that do not have an old boys’ network to tap into or do not fit the general view of what a "real" businessperson should look like, being part of an incubator or accelerator can help address inherent inequalities which women and minorities still have to contend with, even in today's world.
However, it seems that unconscious bias, poorly designed application processes and insufficient effort by incubators/accelerators to reach out to those under-represented is hindering diverse participation.
If this is true in the UK, as a provider of services (as distinct from an employer), incubators and accelerators need to be aware that under the Equality Act 2010 (the Act), they should not discriminate against applicant companies because of the gender or race (amongst other protected characteristics) of the founders. An application process which favours startups founded by white males, even if unintentional, could lead to trouble if a woman or a minority applicant felt aggrieved enough challenge a decision against their company and, in effect, against them.
On a more positive note though, in certain circumstances, the Act allows service providers to take proportionate "positive action" to increase participation by under-represented groups. So the Act can be used as force for good as well as something to beware!
The exclusivity of the high-tech sector in general is reflected in the lack of diverse entrepreneurs being supported by high-tech accelerators and, to a lesser degree, by high-tech incubators. This lack of inclusion matters because women and minority entrepreneurs are significantly underrepresented in high-tech.