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Getting Below the Surface on Diversity: Introducing the DIBs Canadian Tech Survey

Ivana Lochhead, MBA 2017, and Dr. Sarah Saska, Ph.D

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As Peter Parker (Spiderman) discovers his newfound powers, his Uncle, Ben reminds him “with great power comes great responsibility.” With all eyes on the Canadian tech community, Uncle Ben’s words are more relevant now than ever.

Toronto is home to 2,500 – 4,100 tech startups, it was recently named amongst the world’s most innovative cities, and it was named the most diverse city in the world.   Canada’s VC community is also setting record investment numbers as VC in Canada hit a 15-year high in 2016, with a total of $3.7 billion invested and Government investment is strong with examples such as the Vector Institute, a new research facility for AI. Canada is also receiving new foreign tech talent, (in part due to Trump’s immigration ban and H-1B visa restrictions), as well due to Canada’s new expedited work permit process to join alongside our already world-class talent.

All eyes are on the Canadian tech community, and deservedly so, because we’re getting a lot right.  Just earlier this year, members of the Canadian tech community signed an open letter citing “diversity” as a source of significant strength and opportunity for the community.  Written in response to the Trump administration’s Executive Order to block entry of citizens from seven countries, the letter has received 3506 signatures of support to date.  

As evidenced by the likes of Elevate Toronto Festival, DITTO Meet-ups, and TechGirls Canada, conversations about diversity and inclusion in Canadian tech are becoming more commonplace.  In spite of this great work, few Canadian tech companies are collecting meaningful data on their demographics, and even fewer are making a material investment in diversity and inclusion efforts.  

What are we missing?
For the past few years, our neighbours in Silicon Valley have released diversity reports.  These reports, however, have, for the most part, focused on representational diversity, meaning that most of the reports have counted the number of people from each group: woman (check), lesbian (check), person of colour (check).

While representational diversity numbers are necessary to have as a baseline so that we can measure our progress, we know that these numbers do not fully capture our complex identities, nor do they capture our unique stories.  We are all so much more than the boxes that we check.

We know that a diversity of perspectives, thoughts, and experiences matters, and we also know that an inclusive workplace contributes to employee engagement; but what if employees do not feel like they can be their authentic selves at work?  Some of the latest research in this area indicates that diversity and inclusion efforts will fall short if employees do not feel like they belong.

Data is power
As a way to support the Canadian tech community to become a global leader in our diversity, inclusion, and belonging efforts, we partnered with the team at Fortay, a leading culture scaling and analytics platform, to design the DIBs Canadian Tech Survey, or DIBs, for short.

To design DIBs, we explored the latest research in the fields of diversity, inclusion, and belonging and we built on shared resources from Silicon Valley’s Project Include as well as the Community Survey and Reporting Framework that Hubba led the way with earlier this year.

Our intention with DIBs is to capture diversity, inclusion, and belonging metrics within the Canadian tech

Community so that we can have a benchmark to measure our progress in the coming years.  

  • DIBs is a complementary offering available to all Canadian tech companies, hosted on the Fortay platform
  • DIBs is voluntary and anonymous
  • DIBs is designed with a Canadian-specific question and demographic set
  • DIBs is designed with a continuous slider bar to ensure that we capture granular data
  • We will follow-up with a report that openly shares and discusses the DIBs survey results with the Canadian tech community

“DIBs will provide Canadian tech companies with actionable insights to make a direct impact in their DIBs efforts. Our goal is to get an honest understanding of what’s going on in the tech industry and to share these insights broadly.  Most importantly, though, we want to do this work in a way that helps everyone learn and grow together. This is difficult work, and we need to support each other through the process,” says Marlina Kinnersley, Co-founder and CEO of Fortay.

It’s time to explore below the surface
“DIBs” stands for diversity, inclusion, and belonging.  Diversity means appreciation of differences whether it be our ethnicity, gender identity, age, disability, sexual orientation, education, or religion, just to name a few.  Inclusion is a state of our differences being valued and respected and ensuring the right conditions are in place for each person to achieve their full potential. Belonging is the feeling of security, support, and acceptance when people can be their authentic selves.

Or, if you like to think of things in terms of dessert like we do, if “diversity” can be understood as the ingredients required to make a cake, “inclusion” is the recipe that brings the ingredients together, and “belonging” is the ability for everyone to enjoy the finished product in a way that is authentic to them.

Diversity metrics are important, but it’s time to build better accountability, evaluation, and metrics.
As the Canadian tech community better harnesses its “spidey senses,” we feel that Canada is well-positioned to develop a leading DIBs standard for the global tech industry.  

So, Canada, let’s move the conversations around diversity in tech from mere water cooler talk to become part of the water supply.  It is up to us to lead the way because diversity can be Canada’s strength if, and only if, we design it deliberately and intentionally.

To learn more about DIBs or sign up to bring DIBs to your organization, click here.

Fortay is a leading machine-learning based culture scaling and analytics platform. With a culture first approach to hiring culturally aligned talent, a unique method to capture employee feedback, and data-driven insights to improve culture, engagement, and performance.

Feminuity is a global consulting firm dedicated to helping companies navigate through the unmapped territory of diversity, inclusion, and belonging.

To learn more about engaging with Feminuity on your diversity, inclusion, and belonging strategy journey, reach out to the authors of this article: Dr. Saska, Co-founder and Managing Partner of Feminuity, at sarah.saska@feminuity.org or Ivana, Partner at Feminuity, at ivana.lochhead@feminuity.org

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