Celebrating Black History Month
As the second month of 2021 brings together individuals to celebrate diversity through Black History Month, the School of Computer Science reflects on the need for greater diversity in technology and science. The University of Guelph is dedicated to enhancing equality and diversity, ensuring every member of its community has the opportunity to succeed
Part of this activity involves understanding the experiences of the Black community at U of G and their contributions to our institution. in technology, despite much progress and growth, there is a persistent imbalance in diversity that underrepresents the country's actual diverse population and their ideas.
For minority groups in Canada, the opportunities to participate in the tech sector are unevenly distributed. Racialized minorities are less likely to have the same opportunities as their peers despite similar qualifications in the tech sector. These exclusions disrupt not only the society's growth and prosperity but also damages the social, psychological and physical risks among the communities.
A 2016 research study by the Brookfield Institue for Innovation and Entrepreneurship reported only 2.6 per cent of the tech in Canada were Black and that Black employees were the lowest-paid individuals among anyone who held the same job position.
As the Black History MOnth marks a special time of remembrance, reflection and recommitment in our society, we wanted to take some time and appreciate notable Black persons in Canadian technology.
In 2015, Bryan Johnson launched Black Boys Code in Vancouver after working in the industry of tech for almost 20 years. He reported often finding himself to be the only Black person in executive meetings. The Black Boys code focuses on encouraging Black boys aged eight to 17 to follow their dreams of becoming engineers, mathematicians, computer programmers and many more fields in STEM. Since its opening in Vancouver, the organization has opened up spaces in 10 major Canadian cities- Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Ottawa, Edmonton are just some examples.
Takara Small is a Toronto-based journalist, broadcaster, and tech enthusiast. She’s a technology columnist for CBC’s Metro Morning and will be hosting a new CBC podcast focused on discussing technology trends and breaking news. She has been a guest of honour in various international events, such as Collison, The Economic Club of Canada, the International Women in Technology summit. She also founded VENTUREKIDS Canada, an award-winning non-profit organization that provides free coding classes and entrepreneurship workshops to youth living in low-income and underserved communities.
Lawrence Eta is the current Chief Technology Officer for the City of Toronto. He is a business and technology executive and has led many multinational organizations to navigate their technology operations by creating solutions with sustainable results while improving operational efficiency and service delivery. Lawrence has been involved in a wide range of technology industries while holding senior leadership positions such as Global Director of Customer Success within the Internet of Things (IoT) sector and Vice-President of Technical Architecture of Business Technology Solutions. He has led various large transformative business and technology initiatives and is a personal tech mentor for youth at Black Boys Code.
An award-winning social entrepreneur and tech education specialist, Tamar Huggins has helped Black tech entrepreneurs raise funds to launch their tech startups in Canada. As a Black Canadian woman in tech, she works every day towards reflecting young girls and children of colour in the tech industry. In 2015, Huggins launched Tech Spark– Canada’s first technology and design school to empower young girls and children of colour through innovative tech education. Tech Spark offers a K-12 curriculum focus on tech, equity and entrepreneurship that is taught by the experts in the industry. The organization also focuses on creating resources and opportunities for teachers to take professional development training. Over years, Huggins has won multiple awards such as Harry Jermone Award, Young Entrepreneur Award and was honoured as one of Canada’s top 150 black women creating impacts across the country by CBC and HERstory in Black.
We need to acknowledge the achievements these individuals have made in the tech industry and continue supporting innovative people who encourage diversity. We need to recognize the gaps and be bold and persistent in creating a network that supports diversity.
Although around 1.2 million Canadians identify as Black, representing approximately 3.5 per cent of the population, the poor representation and barriers for them to participate in the field hinder advancement in tech. At the same time, we should acknowledge and actively work to remove systemic discrimination that exists.
Improving diversity takes effort and a thoughtful approach. The School of Computer Science at the University of Guelph is proud to continue working towards a more inclusive, diverse technology community in Canada.