The post below was originally published on Medium.

It is an opportune time to take stock of what is happening in Montreal and what remains to be done, both as a society and as individuals, to become more inclusive, equitable and fair.

Why bring up diversity in tech at a Wagon Talk? One reason is because this issue matters to me personally, as I’m a woman who has worked in the tech industry for over 15 years. However, that is far from the only reason.

Because waves of headlines on recent American scandals have shocked, shaken up, and mobilized the world tech community.

Because in Canada, the tech community strives to be a champion of diversity: thousands of entrepreneurs, stakeholders and people in startups and tech companies have recognized diversity as an asset that contributes to our country’s strength and wealth, and some are even walking the talk and taking action.

Because in Quebec, like elsewhere in the world, we’ve seen that tech companies still have a lot of work to do to tackle this issue.

Because in Montreal, this topic also comes up a lot and many initiatives are geared toward greater diversity, such as Startup Mosaic, Notman House and Ladies Learning Code— the list goes on.

Definitions

Diversity: The fact of many different types of things or people being included in something; a range of different things or people; the fact that there are many different ideas or opinions about something. (Cambridge Dictionary).

Inclusivity: The quality of trying to include many different types of people and treat them all fairly and equally. (Cambridge Dictionary).

Chloé Freslon, journalist and facilitator; Ilias Benjelloun, Emma Notman & Cassie L. Rhéaume

What is happening in Montréal ?

We decided that this was an opportune time to take stock of what is happening in Montreal and what remains to be done, both as a society and as individuals, to become more inclusive, equitable and fair. On July 6, we invited tech insiders and champions to come talk about the issue:

  • Cassie L. Rhéaume, developer, speaker and ambassador for the Montreal division of Ladies Learning Code
  • Emma Williams, Campus Director, Notman House
  • Ilias Benjelloun, Creative Director at MTL NewTech and Interpreneurship Catalyst at DesjardinsLab.com

The panel was moderated by Chloé Freslon, journalist and author of URelles, a blog dedicated to women in tech (in French).

I strongly believe in the power of role models to change what’s wrong in society.” - Chloé Freslon

Highlights from the discussion

The issue of parity is getting worse. In the 50’s and 60’s, women were pioneers in computer science. When computers became a fixture of homes in the 80’s, they were marketed as toys for boys. This created a large pool of boys entering the tech ecosystem earlier than girls.

It’s still difficult to change “bro” culture and break down macho stereotypes in an industry that still struggles to be inclusive.

One major way to remedy this would be to promote digital literacy among girls to help them understand that technology is for everyone.

We need diversity to create economic value (a report from the McKinsey Global Institute forecasts that advances in gender equality in business could add $150 billion to Canada’s GDP by 2026), creative value, and social value.

Advances in artificial intelligence are an opportunity to break down bias, and this is why we need diversity in gender, background and culture.

Scandals covered in the media on inequality, discrimination and abuse may contribute to feelings of workplace insecurity, but they also encourage people to come forward about discriminatory and inequitable situations. This gives hope that some types of behaviour will no longer be tolerated.

The Montreal tech community has many solutions and is taking action. We’re lucky to have such a tight-knit community, to have hubs like the Notman House and MTL NewTech, to have a multitude of events, to have many ways to learn to code (bootcamps like Le Wagon Montréal or non-profits like Les Pitonneux or Ladies Learning Code), to have Slack and Facebook groups for women in tech, to have initiatives such as Startup Mosaic and Queer Tech MTL, who promote diversity by empowering diversity models and diversity leaders.

At the talk, Ilias said that things can change if everyone does what they can. We think so too. That’s why our program is for all creative and entrepreneurial minds regardless of gender or background and is open to the world (there are currently 23 Wagon bootcamps around the globe). What do we expect from our candidates? You need to be (very) motivated, curious and outgoing.

Cristina, architect & student at Le Wagon Montréal, batch #77

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