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Black Representation in the Tech Industry

In the Canadian Tech industry, skilled black tech employees are severely underrepresented. Black workers lack representation in comparison to the entire workforce but also relative to other visible minority groups. The digital economy comprises 5% of Canada’s total economy and is expected to grow exponentially. This share of the economy represents more than the forestry, mining, and gas industries. As Canada’s largest city, Toronto is also emerging as a global tech capital. However, Canada will not be able to capitalize on its potential as a force in the global digital economy if the country’s tech industry does not act on the principles of diversity and inclusion organizations use as a public relations shield. Black skilled tech workers are an untapped source of talent and are critical to contributing towards Canada’s growth in this area of the economy and on the international stage. 

In 2016, a study conducted by the Brookfield Institute revealed that Black individuals comprise only 2.6% of the Canadian tech force. Black tech workers are also the lowest paid. The statistics for Black women are even more bleak.  Outside of this report, it is very difficult to find statistics related to the hiring, advancement, and retention of Black workers and professionals in the tech industry.  Internally, Canadian tech companies do not appear to have produced diversity reports that can be shared with the public. Reports such as these can give insight into how hiring trends change over time, but the tech industry does not have this data to share.  The Canadian technology industry has made public pronouncements that governments should do more to champion diversity and inclusion. Yet businesses do not provide evidence of their own transparency and accountability. 

It is also difficult to discern how many minority-led start-ups actually receive funding. Black entrepreneurs are striking out on their own in the tech industry, but the question remains of how many Black start-up founders must fund their ventures independently in comparison to other groups. In 2018, a study from Innovate Inclusion found that top tech incubators designed to help new start-ups in Toronto lack diversity at different levels of these organizations. According to the study, this problem is leading to a digital divide in Ontario.

In the United States, the data provided shows what kind of problems under-represented groups face in entering STEM fields. No such data is provided in Canada, but it is highly likely that the problems plaguing the tech scene in the US in the areas of inclusion, engagement, and representation also persist in Canada. 

Canada has the long-standing aspiration to bolster its economy and compete against other nations in the areas of innovation and technology. But to do so, Canada must draw from the wide swathe of talent available in all groups, not simply from a narrow group of individuals organizations are familiar with. Widening the talent pool to include underrepresented groups will help level the playing field of opportunity for those who have the talent to contribute but are thwarted by barriers to entry the industry. But the action of drawing on broader talent pools is mutually beneficial. A diverse talent pool will drive Canada’s economy towards unparalleled growth and help companies serve their customers better. In the age of innovation, diverse talent is also the key to making discoveries that might remain dormant without the input of unheard voices.

This article is part of the campaign Systemic Participation. Funded by Heritage Canada :

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EcoAmbassadeurs is a non-profit organization providing bilingual services in the fields of health, education, entreprenuership and ecology. Our goal is to support the members of our community for their social, economic and civic development.

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