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Tech for All: Breaking Barriers in Toronto’s Innovation Community (2018)

Posted on:
September 29, 2020

What is this research about?

This survey-based report explores diversity, inclusion and belonging (DIBs) in Toronto’s tech sector.

What do you need to know?

MaRS Discovery District (MaRS) launched the Tech for All Agreement (page 47 of the PDF), calling upon tech-sector employers to form an Inclusion Council, working together to foster DIBs strategies within their companies and across the industry. 47 Toronto-area tech companies signed on to undertake a learning journey together with the goal of beginning to understand the state of diversity, inclusion and belonging in the tech sector.

Diversity, inclusion and belonging are essential elements for all companies in Toronto’s tech sector. As the sector continues to grow and attract the attention of the world, DIBs activities are critical to its success and more important than ever. While tech companies have diversity policies and programs in place that are making a difference, especially when it comes to hiring staff, they need to do more to ensure that their employees’ diverse perspectives are recognized and valued in the workplace, that they have impactful work to do and that they feel they are making a valuable contribution. This report lays out a path to do exactly that. I am confident that the solutions proposed will ensure that our increasingly diverse workforce is fully engaged and helping Toronto’s tech sector grow even stronger.

What did the researchers do?

Researchers conducted focus groups with 110 Toronto tech-sector employers and 28 tech-sector employees, as well as interviews with 16 DIBs experts, and a survey with 456 Toronto tech-sector employees.

What did the researchers find?

Researchers found that employers generally understand the importance of DIBs but struggle to create shared organizational understanding. However, many employers are taking important steps to reduce bias in the workplace:

  • Employers are reimaging the hiring process to remove bias by experimenting with diverse hiring panels during interviews.
  • Employers are using tech solutions such as apps and AI recruitment tools to help build diverse and inclusive workplaces, and are engaging with underrepresented and marginalized communities like Venture Out and Ladies Learning Code.

Additional findings:

  • Women were twice as likely to disagree that their organization is diverse or fosters belonging.
  • 66 per cent of Black employees reported that they had been subject to bias on one or more aspects of their identity, compared to 47 per cent of white employees.
  • Indigenous people felt significant racism exists at the workplace and contributes negatively towards feelings of inclusion and belonging.
  • Millennials were 1.7 times as likely to report that their organization isn’t diverse overall compared to their older peers. They also felt ageism exists at work, feeling older peers often disregard their points.
  • Those with a disability were 2.4 times more likely to disagree that their organization promotes belonging.
  • Those working at a small organization (one to 99 employees) were less likely to report they had been subjected to bias based on one or more aspects of their identity, compared to employees at medium (100 to 499 employees) and large (500+ employees) organizations

How can you use this research?

According to the researchers "The good news is that employers want to change this reality: they want to engage in DIBs initiatives and many are already engaged in this work. However, many others reported that they didn’t know how or where to start. A lack of knowledge, fear of doing the 'wrong' thing, the speed of growth in the tech sector and employee backlash all prove to be barriers for employers. This is a problem. Organizations in the tech sector need to come together to support each other; we need to work together to take on the innovation challenges that will propel our region forward.

The organizations who have started this journey with MaRS have signed on to the Tech for All Agreement, indicating their desire to form a Toronto region tech-sector Inclusion Council. We encourage and welcome other members of the tech community to sign on to this Agreement and join us to truly make Tech for All."


This survey-based report explores diversity, inclusion and belonging (DIBs) in Toronto’s tech sector.