At BigData Toronto, a conference focused on Big Data, Analytics, AI, Machine Learning, and the like, it’s refreshing to see a panel on diversity in technology.
Marianne Bulger moderated the panel that included Janice Liu, Director, Digital Solutions & Operations at Cossette Media, Emily Agard, Director of SciXchange at Ryerson University, Yaa Otchere, Toronto Chapter & Programming Lead at Ladies Learning Code, and Kevin Kelly, Co-Founder of DevTO.
The fact is, women still make up less than 20% of tech positions worldwide. When women account for half the world’s population, this percentage just doesn’t add up.
From an early age, boys and girls are treated equally, until roughly secondary school age, when a split in interests occurs, and is oftentimes fostered. The skills we’re taught at home or school isn’t what we need, says Janice.
To combat this Emily says SciXchange specifically targets diverse groups, and offers scholarships or camps. They target schools from vulnerable communities. They nurture an interest in technology, in all ages. Even adults should never stop learning.
What can be done to increase the number of women, and people of colour, in the recruitment process? Kevin weighed in that people need to know which organizations are available to assist. People of colour tend to have smaller networks. There needs to be a bridge between secondary and post-secondary education to help build those networks.
Teams CAN be diverse. Human Resources managers should make an effort to hire diverse staff. “If you aren’t satisfied with the applicants you have, go out and get them,” adds Emily.
Anxieties begin with things we don’t understand. Janice responds to the question on whether women need to act like men. “No. There are shared foundations. Everyone has the ability to be confident and tread places they may be afraid of.” Yaa added, “bring your whole self to work. Create spaces to just ‘be’, and be an ally by standing behind/beside someone who needs your strength.”
Yaa also stated, “Digital literacy and learning code means becoming economically free and contributing to families and communities. It allows people to take part, and take charge. […] Women are known for creating and building, and digital allows that to be showcased.”
This discussion was necessary, and there were a number of lessons to be had from this diverse group. The group agrees; diversity empowers you, and makes you better. Diversity makes your teams better. Don’t be afraid to ask the questions that will help empower people, and leave something better than you found it.