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techsuch May 9, 2021 0 Comments

We need to invest in better representation for Toronto’s tech sceneToronto’s growing tech industry can be an isolating place for people ofcolour. The city, like other tech hubs across the country, suffers from a lackof diversity.In fact, a 2018 report by Innovate Inclusion found that some of Toronto’s toptech incubators — institutions tasked with helping new startups thrive —lacked diversity at several levels. A growing problem, the study says, that’scontributing to a “digital divide” in the province.> #### “We fundamentally believe the solutions we are creating through> technologies must reflect the populations they serve.” @jodilynnkovitz,> founder of @Move_the_Dial.For the industry’s Black workers and other underrepresented groups gaining ameaningful foothold in tech might be especially difficult. While Canadianstatistics aren’t available — a telling problem in itself — the U.S. offers aglimpse into some of the problems workers likely face.### Black in tech South of our border, Black tech workers make up only 9.3 per cent of theindustry. Alongside Hispanics, they remain underrepresented compared to otherprivate sectors and hold fewer leadership positions. Meanwhile, a survey bythe Kapoor Center for Social Impact found two of the most common reasonsminorities chose to quit the tech industry was down to discrimination andcultural bias. Here at home, advocates say Canadian workers face similar problems on the joband more is needed to combat it. Nirvana Champion has seen first-hand howchallenging the city’s tech scene can be. Especially, she says, for women ofcolour who experience discrimination on multiple fronts. Through Move the Dialfor Everyone — a subset of the well-known Move The Dial initiative thatamplifies women in tech — she’s working to help the industry’sunderrepresented groups.“We don’t have the data, because we’re not collecting it yet,” she explains.“Anecdotally we uncover more stories all the time about the experiences ofpeople of colour. When we’re talking about diversity we have to move beyondjust gender and look at intersectionality.”“Through Move the Dial for Everyone we’re sharing stories and hoping to driveawareness,” adds Dayana Cadet, another volunteer and the group’s co-lead. “Wewant to show people who may not be familiar with what women of colour [andother underrepresented groups] face to know that there is an issue. [We wantto] foster a community of inclusion for those who have previously always feltexcluded or unheard.### Why inclusion matters Aside from the fact that diversity has proven over and over again that it’sgood for everyone, it also makes economic sense. Diverse companies are moreprofitable, period.U.S. companies with higher racial diversity are more successful. A McKinseyreport showed firms that place in the “top quartile for racial or ethnicdiversity” are 35 per cent more likely to have higher financial returns.What’s more, a study by Intel and Dalberg found that the tech industry “couldgenerate an additional $300 to $370 billion each year if the racial/ethnicdiversity of tech companies’ workforces reflected that of the talent pool.”> #### “The data made it abundantly clear that there is a significant gap in> gender diversity in Canada [but] we found through our work that for visible> minorities and other underrepresented groups those numbers are far worse.”> @jodilynnkovitz, founder of @Move_the_Dial.The same study also found the racial makeup of a company directly correlatesto higher performance over time and improved efficiency. “For every 10 percent increase in racial and ethnic diversity on the senior-executive team,earnings before interest and taxes rise 0.8 per cent.”### What’s next? For years, companies spent millions on education campaigns – blaming a talentpipeline for a lack of representation. But that’s just not true anymore. Newsurveys are finding talent isn’t the only issue preventing diverse workersfrom joining some of the world’s biggest tech companies. Bias, it seems, playsa big part in preventing both women and minorities from advancing in theindustry.Even when people of colour do graduate with the necessary skills they find itdifficult to thrive. Applicants with Black- or Hispanic-sounding names areless likely to receive a callback or be hired. On the other hand, people ofcolour, regardless of gender, are 3.5 times more likely to leave the techindustry due to harassment. That’s almost double the rate for white women.Entrepreneurs looking for ways to improve their diversity could look toindustry leaders like Pinterest. The photo-sharing platform has increased thenumber of women and people of colour at its offices. The company went beyonddiversity pledges to improve its numbers, which included publicly listing itsown poor track record. Microsoft also saw gains when the company enacted adiversity bonus program, which tied compensation to diversity gains.Of course, improving diversity takes work and there’s not a clear-cut way todo it. Jodi Kovitz, founder of Move the Dial, and her team aren’t waiting forthe problem to fix itself.Her advice? Take action now to ensure Canada’s growing tech community is moreinclusive. Also, work with other groups to start making changes within byseeking out diverse voices. “We won’t make a change unless all voices arerepresented and really treat advancement of all people as a fundamentalstrategic component. “

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