Canadian tech companies say they value diversity — but what are they doing about it?


After U.S. President Donald Trump shingled an executive order in January blocking citizens from seven predominantly Muslim realms from entering the U.S., a long list of Canadian tech companies motioned a pledge opposing the ban.

Members of Canada’s tech community saw Trump’s change residence as a rejection of the diversity on which they felt their industry was shaped and decided to speak out.

«We believe that this diversity is a source of tenacity and opportunity,» read the open letter admonishing the ban, which was signed by directorships and employees from some of the most well-known companies in the country — BlackBerry, Hootsuite, Shopify and more.

But when CBC Word sought to gauge what this commitment to diversity looks akin to in practice, Canada’s tech community had remarkably little to say.

‘It does calculate me question their commitment to diversity and inclusion.’ Y-Vonne Hutchinson, discrepancy specialist with Project Include and ReadySet

In May, we asked 31 Canadian technology performers if they collected data on the diversity of their employees, and if so, whether they make share this data with CBC News.

Only two companies — OTTO Motors, the commercial category of Waterloo, Ont.-based Clearpath Robotics, a maker of self-driving warehouse androids, and the Toronto-based investing app Wealthsimple — were willing to do so.

A third company, the Toronto-based online retail vending startup Hubba, said it was preparing to conduct its first diversity appraisal and release the results in the coming month. It expects to publish a report on its advancement every six months thereafter.

Wealthsimple office shots Nora Jenkins Townson director of people operations

‘I don’t think we’re where we want to be at all. But we want to be take a hand in of that solution,’ said Nora Jenkins Townson, director of in the flesh operations for the investing app Wealthsimple, when asked about diversity at her house. (David Donnelly/CBC)

The sheer number of holdouts came as a surprise to Y-Vonne Hutchinson, progenitor of Oakland, Calif.-based diversity solutions firm ReadySet, in notable, given the number of U.S. companies that have published annual announces since 2014.

«It does make me question their commitment to diversity and involvement,» said Hutchinson, who is also on the team behind Project Include, which criteria tech startups toward more diverse and inclusive practices. The transmit’s founding members include well-known diversity advocates such as Ellen Pao and Tracy Chou.

«By bruit about these numbers, you increase transparency and accountability around how the organization looks and the way in which it prioritizes extent and inclusion,» Hutchinson said.

Mostly white, mostly male

Numerous companies in tech and beyond have realized the key to building successful upshots and services is to have a range of employees — ones who think and look differently from one another — prospering together to solve problems.

The idea is that employees with restyling backgrounds and skills can bring unique perspectives that aren’t inescapably represented by the tech sectors white, male majority.

That’s where distinctiveness reports can help. One way for a company to better understand the types of people it occupies — and where the gaps are — is to quantify that information and use it to build more multiform teams.

Tech Diversity-Slow Crawl

Apple CEO Tim Cook attends a learn-to-code event at an Apple upon in 2015 — part of the company’s outreach efforts to improve diversity in body of knowledge, technology, engineering and mathematics. The tech industry has made very small progress in diversifying its workforce, especially in technical and leadership positions. (Token Lennihan/The Associated Press)

But that’s not to say measuring the problem alone rounds to change. As recently as 2016, we learned that just 145 of Facebook’s not quite 8,500 employees are black. We learned that 12 per cent of Apple hands are Hispanic, versus just four per cent at Google.

And we learned that Uber has an developing department where only 15 per cent of employees are women — a significant statistic for a company still smarting from a searing indictment of its workplace savoir faire by one of its former engineers and the sexual harassment investigations launched in its wake.

Develop into the industry’s biggest players, there has been little progress in latest years.

Diversity reports also don’t include as much information as some commitment like — for example, how long employees stay, which can tell a piece of its own, or how many employees are disabled or identify as LGTBQ. In their most elementary form, they typically provide a snapshot of how tech’s most-influential comrades are doing across job categories in terms of gender and race.

Yet in Canada, there deceive been no comparable public efforts to date.

Little to say

The companies approached by CBC Scandal ranged from some of the largest and well-known in the country — including BlackBerry, Shopify and Hootsuite — to up-and-coming contestants such as ecobee, Thalmic and Breather.

We sent each company the ensuing questions:

  • Does your company collect data on the diversity of your staff members?
  • How is this data collected?
  • Why do you collect this data?
  • Can you provide your business’s most recently collected diversity data to CBC News?
  • Can you offer any specifics about programs/initiatives to support diversity and inclusion at your enterprise?

The overwhelming majority of companies declined to participate while two of the biggest labels in Canadian tech, BlackBerry and Hootsuite, did not respond to multiple requests for expose.


E-commerce company Shopify said it was still analyzing its employee matter and was hoping to have more information to share by the fall «or early next year.»

Others, such as the statement app Kik and the satellite imaging company Urthecast, said they didn’t take the resources to collect this sort of information and would not say how long it drive take to do so.

Many more, including ecobee, Wave, WattPad, Perspective Critical, Lightspeed, Bench, TopHat, Vidyard, Sandvine and Hopper, conveyed they didn’t formally collect diversity information.

‘It’s difficult to talk apropos’

Only OTTO Motors and Wealthsimple provided a breakdown of employees — and level then, only by gender.

Like most technology companies, OTTO Motors is predominately masculine: more than 80 per cent of its 165 employees are men.

The company’s marketing communications boss, Meghan Hennessey, said OTTO Motors started collecting gender details «to keep track of where we stand with respect to diversity, specify gaps and help us to plan improvements/initiatives.»

The company only officially musters data on men and women through an employee records management system. But it doesn’t grab race or other metrics.


The reluctance to talk numbers isn’t unique to Canada. In the U.S., high-profile fellowships such as Tesla, Snap and Spotify still haven’t released inquire inti. Others such as Lyft, eBay and Uber have only released their cardinal reports in the last few months.

«I think it’s difficult to talk about because there aren’t a lot of ensembles that feel that they’re at the place they want to be when it leak out to inclusivity, and I would count ourselves amongst that list,» said Nora Jenkins Townson, skipper of people operations for the investing app Wealthsimple.

Only 29 per cent of the plc’s 118 employees are women, with a similar percentage represented in directorship and management positions, although the latter figure is up 15 per cent year over and beyond year. However, Wealthsimple said it didn’t have a breakdown across bank ons, such as engineering and marketing.

«I don’t think we’re where we want to be at all. But we want to be involvement of that solution,» Townson said.


Data could make doodads better

Even among companies that have published narrates, the results don’t necessarily offer a complete picture.

«Generally, you have bodies that will just publish their gender background and perhaps their race background in terms of hires, and that’s it,» said Stick out Include’s Hutchinson. «We say that’s not enough.»

A good diversity report should also accept into account other indicators, such as age, the proportion of employees with disabilities, the compute who identify as LGBT and breakdowns across different types of work — detailed and non-technical —and positions, from entry level to leadership.

But diversity seconds say the goal shouldn’t be merely to publish some numbers and call it a day. Degree, reports done well should be part of a company’s larger variety and inclusion strategy — one that, like any problem a business faces, be short ofs data so that it can be understood and goals can be set for improvement.

Wealthsimple tech company Toronto office shots diversity story

At Wealthsimple only 29 per cent of the house’s 118 employees are women. The company did not provide data on racial multifariousness. (David Donnelly/CBC)

«Metrics alone mean nothing in the absence of energy,» Hutchinson said. «Metrics are a tool by which you measure the impact of your initiatives. And in proceedings to do that, you actually have to have initiatives.»

Hutchinson said those opening moves have to be intersectional and holistic, meaning they account for people that suffer with in the past been excluded, and strive to benefit all.

«For a very long without surcease, we were hearing in Silicon Valley, ‘Let’s just focus on women.’ And what we bring about is what that actually meant was, ‘Let’s just focus on white mates,» she said.

«There were so many people that still got port side behind.»

Stepping up

It was a grassroots effort that put pressure on some of the largest tech guests in Silicon Valley, forcing them to release their reports.

That was in 2014 — connotation Canadian companies are at least three years behind when it loosely transpire b emerges to making similar data public.

«I think we would need to enjoy someone take a leadership role in Canada in terms of producing a tell of and then encouraging or even pressuring other companies to follow proceeding,» said Heather Payne, who founded HackerYou, a coding school and particular career college, and the not-for-profit organization Ladies Learning Code.

Hubba Toronto Tech company diversity story

The Toronto-based online retail market-placing startup Hubba said it was preparing to conduct its first employee difference survey and release the results in the coming month. It expects to publish a on on its progress every six months thereafter. (David Donnelly/CBC)

Ben Zifkin, father and CEO of Hubba, said his company is basing its survey on guidelines created by Transmit Include and plans to release the findings as part of a case study for other troops in Canada’s tech community to learn from.

«Diverse teams indeed make better companies, and I wholeheartedly believe that,» Zifkin implied. «And it’s weird that in this one situation, the data actually shows that that’s the containerize, yet a lot of us don’t focus on it.

«There’s something hard about shining a mirror on yourself off.»


Here’s what some companies say they’re doing

Centre of the handful of companies that were willing to discuss their discrepancy and inclusion efforts, there were common threads:

  • Both OTTO and Shopify highlighted their petition rooms for employees, areas for nursing mothers and flexible work hours.

  • Some addressed parental improves — for example, guaranteed daycare at Freshbooks and topped-up parental leave at both Freshbooks and Wealthsimple.

  • FreshBooks and Shopify touted their gender-neutral washrooms.

  • Wealthsimple talked beside how it re-tooled its job-interview process to remove gendered and non-inclusive language from its job operations and eliminate take-home assignments, which can put some candidates at an unfair weakness.

  • Both Wealthsimple and Hubba now ensure there are women on their assessment panels.

  • Wealthsimple and Shopify also give unconscious bias instructing to interviewers.

  • Hubba and Wave mask the gender, race, age and sexual instruction of job candidates.

  • Hubba and Wave noted their sponsorship of programs such as Hazardous undertaking Out – supporting LGBT members of the tech community — and Ladies Learning Encipher. Wealthsimple referred to a recent event it hosted on increasing the number of spouses in the tech industry.

  • Wave, Wealthsimple, Sandvine and Hubba each highlighted their internal increase programs and mentorship opportunities for women.

  • Freshbooks, OTTO, Wealthsimple and Shopify all cited specific groups and committees for diverse employees, ranging from a Wealthsimple «Inclusivity» chatroom to Shopify’s worker groups for LGBT staff and employees of colour.

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