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New Toronto initiative to audit tech incubators on diversity

Research backed by Ryerson University could help show data about diversity in the tech industry.

Jessica Yamoah (pictured) and her colleague Sarah Juma have launched Innovate Inclusion, an initiative seeking to introduce underrepresented communities to the resources available for entrepreneurship.

Eduardo Lima / Metro Order this photo

Jessica Yamoah (pictured) and her colleague Sarah Juma have launched Innovate Inclusion, an initiative seeking to introduce underrepresented communities to the resources available for entrepreneurship.

Jessica Yamoah is tired of the diversity buzz in the tech industry without seeing much about it.

“In most cases you’d think diversity simply means replacing Caucasian men with Caucasian women,” said the Toronto entrepreneur who’s spent the past 10 years working with major brands such as Apple and Nokia.

“That doesn’t solve the inclusion problem. With technology being the way forward, if our communities don’t get involved they’ll be left behind.”

Innovate Inclusion, a project she recently launched in collaboration with Sarah Juma of StyleID, is an attempt to change things up.

By connecting people of colour and other marginalized groups with incubators and resources, the initiative wants to advocate for and advance the entrepreneurial success of people from underrepresented communities.

With the backing of Ryerson University, the duo is currently conducting a diversity audit of local and regional tech incubators such as MaRS, Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone, Communitech in Waterloo and Invest Ottawa.

They’ll also hold discussions with members of minority groups to hear their experiences working with these hubs, and review existing policies and programs geared towards helping innovators from marginalized communities.

“Most incubators and accelerators in Canada don’t have any data about the diversity in terms of ethnicity and gender,” said Yamoah. “That’s why we don’t see ourselves in this industry.”

The underrepresentation of minorities in tech startup industry largely stems from lack of capital, as many prefer to launch into corporate world rather than struggle to start their own tech businesses, she said. Part of this initiative is to pressure governments and other stakeholders to distribute funding into more diverse communities.

“That’s how we can take action and bridge the gap and promote technology and innovation for all,” she added.

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