Guest post by: Candace Hodgins, Vice President RBC
“Disrupted Equity + Inclusivity Starts Now.” With that email notification from Tech Manitoba on the morning of October 21st, the sun rose on the third of a three part series — Disrupted 2021. What began with a focus on Recovery in February followed by Cybersecurity in May, Disrupted 2021 bookended the year’s tremendous conversations with an equally important dialogue on the role we all play in advocating for diversity and inclusion.
Whether specific to the Tech industry or across the many industries and sectors that make Canada a force for innovation and disruption, we are strengthened by our diversity, enabled by inclusion, empowered by belonging, and emboldened by equity…if we make it so.
That is the message brought by three keynotes, two panelists, and a unifying host who each challenged us that it is for all of us to challenge our unconscious biases. Not only must we ensure doors of opportunity remain open to newcomers, visible minorities, and Indigenous peoples, we need to challenge systemic bias and create a new normal where there is space for everyone.
Anne Kjær Bathel, CEO and co-founder ReDI School of Digital Integration, spoke to Untapped: Finding Tech Talent in the Newcomer Community. Drawing upon her own real world examples of successful programming, Anne talked about the power of uniting the imaginations and insights of newcomers and refugees with tech learning opportunities and the resources to enable and engage diverse Newcomer talent in economic participation. Anne reminded us of the importance of ensuring seats at the table in the identification of solutions for those whom the solutions are geared towards.
Dr. Rehman Abdulrehman, in his talk Local Not Foreign, spoke to the fragility of inclusion in a Canadian context and how we are far earlier on our journey than we might think. Dr. Abdulrehman spoke to the importance of diverse visibility across all mediums and ensure diverse stories are equally woven into our heritage and current traditions. We need to create space for more diverse representation in all aspects of culture and employment while calling out those that exclude or marginalize.
RBC Thought Leader and bestselling author, John Stackhouse, speaking to the RBC Thought Leadership report Building Bandwidth: Preparing Indigenous Youth for a Digital Future, shared how Indigenous youth represent the fastest-growing population of Canadian youth growing at a rate four times faster than non-Indigenous youth. Robotics, advance technologies, and data are driving change in sectors that many Indigenous communities depend on. Indigenous youth are experiencing a confidence gap in their digital literacy skills when compared to non-Indigenous peers.
Meanwhile, only 24% of households in Indigenous communities have access to quality, high-speed Internet. We need to meet this moment through ensuring access to digital skill development, tech jobs, and a digital infrastructure so that Indigenous youth are well-positioned to respond to the great skills shift.
John bridged the conversation from the report to real world examples of individuals changing the narrative. Jace Meyer is the Executive Director of the Indigenous Innovation Institute who builds new paths of social entrepreneurship by co-creating a community space for Indigenous-led technology learning and innovation.
By creating platforms for the amplification of Indigenous voices, Jace recognizes that there is digital inequity across Turtle Island and the tech sector can play an important role in addressing these inequities through policies that champion inclusivity and accessibility.
Dallas Flett-Wapash, an Ininew/Seaulteax digital artist who actively engages in the fields of video game design, expanded reality, and other interactive technologies, is leveraging these technologies and gamification to also amplify Indigenous voices while preserving and creating connections to Indigenous culture. Dallas demonstrates what is possible when we bring together digital talent, fortitude, a creative spirit, and marry these with access to online environments in more remote communities.
Serving as a host, convener, and connector throughout the event, Jessica Dumas is a well-known champion for inclusion throughout Winnipeg. Jessica has a proven history of leveraging her many stages and roles to speak up for inclusion, advocate for opportunity, and challenge biases which is also what is at the heart of Disrupted.
While Disrupted started with recovery and cybersecurity, this is where we conclude this year’s Disrupted conference — with the understanding that a secure Canada and a diverse Canada is a Canada that can not only recover but thrive and prosper.
Creating space is foundational to the journey ahead. Belonging and representation matter for today and they will matter for tomorrow to ensure that this and the next generation of Canadians — all Canadians — can see themselves in the jobs of the future. Equity + Inclusivity starts with each of us and it starts now.