News / Toronto

Directory of women and people of colour tech speakers expands across Canada, U.S.

Women and Color was born after Mohammed Asaduallah grew frustrated by the lack of diversity he noticed at tech events.

Mohammed Asaduallah, right, and Sharon Kennedy work together on Women and Color, a directory of experts and speakers who identify as women and/or people of colour.

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Mohammed Asaduallah, right, and Sharon Kennedy work together on Women and Color, a directory of experts and speakers who identify as women and/or people of colour.

As product designer Mohammed Asaduallah continued to attend tech events, he began to notice that, for the most part, everyone looked the same.

"I was getting more and more aware, I would say, to the lack of diversity of tech," Asaduallah said. "I was frustrated."

He decided to do something about it, creating a directory of talented women and people of colour who are available to speak at tech-related events. Now almost two years old, Women and Color (they use the American spelling) is expanding beyond Toronto to a handful of cities across Canada and the U.S. in the new year.

The directory's profiles include a short description of the person, contact information and a link to their Twitter account.

Asaduallah, 29, maintains the non-profit site in his free time. But he has some help from volunteers, like Sharon Kennedy. They met at a Civic Tech Toronto meet-up group where people pool their efforts to solve tech problems.

Kennedy, a web developer, attends many events and meet-ups in the Toronto tech scene and says they sometimes "don't feel that inclusive."

"A lot of tech conferences feel kind of imbalanced, and that's just the field in general; I don't think it's necessarily anyone's fault," she said.

Kennedy said young women like herself often lack role models in the field.

"That kind of just sends this implicit message that maybe you're not going to get that far, because you don't see other people like you that have gotten far in the field."

She's also been asked to sit on panels she feels she wasn't qualified for, because organizers complained it was hard to find women.

But, she explained, Women and Color gives organizers a pool of people who have said, "I'm interested in speaking; these are the topics I want to speak about. I'm welcoming that contact."

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