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HomeCANADABlack Leaders Talk Inclusion and Innovation at Amazon Toronto Tech Hub Event

Black Leaders Talk Inclusion and Innovation at Amazon Toronto Tech Hub Event

Panelists call on technology leaders to ensure that doors for Black talent stay wide open

Black History Month is not just an annual observance; it’s a profound commitment to recognizing and celebrating the rich contributions of Black communities to society. Rooted in a history marked by resilience and achievement amidst adversity, Black History Month underscores Canada’s dedication to diversity, inclusivity, and equity. This is particularly true in sectors like technology, where Black Canadians – notably new immigrants and Black women – represent only 2.6% of the workforce.  Initiatives that empower Canada’s Black community help acknowledge the ongoing fight against systemic anti-Black racism and strive towards a future where every individual’s potential is recognized and nurtured.

Envisioning a Diverse Future

On February 27, Amazon Canada and TECHNATION hosted a Black History Month event at Amazon’s Toronto Tech Hub. Themed “Black is Building: Black Leaders and Entrepreneurs,” the event focused on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. It was more than a celebration of Black History Month – panelists shared their views on how to create a future where Black leadership and entrepreneurship lead the way in innovation and progress.

Setting the Tone: Joël Lobban’s Performance

Joël Lobban, an R&B artist, opened the show, masterfully setting the stage for an evening of empowerment. His performance was more than just music; it was a poignant reminder of the deep ties between art, culture, and the narrative of Black history and creativity and the importance of platforming Black entertainers.

Empowering Panels and Discussions

The event featured two enlightening panels. The first, focusing on “Black is Leadership and Mentorship,” had industry leaders Wayne Purboo, Vice President at Amazon Shopping Video, Marissa Smith, Site Leader at YYZ1, and Alesana Pereira, Account Manager at AWS and Former Co-Diversity Lead at LinkedIn. Moderated by Donna Alexander, Former President of Amazon Canada’s Black Employee Network and Learning & Development Program Manager at Amazon, the panel explored crucial topics like leadership diversity and the future of inclusive leadership. Purboo emphasized the importance of recognizing and elevating Black talent in the tech industry, stating, “Harness the value of Black talent. It’s a moral and economic imperative.” This reinforced the panel’s focus on the need for deliberate efforts to include and promote Black professionals.

The second panel, “Black is Empowering: Entrepreneurs and Creators,” showcased the experiences of Lola Adeyemi from It’s Souper and Olade Consulting, Joelle Bertrand, Senior Music Curator at Amazon Music Canada, and Medge Beauvoir, a dynamic content creator. This discussion delved into the nuances of cultivating Black entrepreneurship and creativity in fields like music and digital content. Adeyemi highlighted the untapped potential of supporting Black-owned businesses, noting, “Cultivate Black entrepreneurship. It’s smart business.” This discussion delved into the nuances of cultivating Black entrepreneurship and creativity in fields like music and digital content.

A Call to Action: Join the Movement

This event was a catalyst, prompting us to take concrete steps to empower the Black community:

  • Support and Foster Black Talent: We must create avenues for Black professionals to excel. Companies and organizations are called upon to mentor, promote, and include Black voices in their leadership.
  • Champion Black Entrepreneurship: Supporting Black-owned businesses is smart business. They need our backing through funding, mentorship, and networking.
  • Practice Real Allyship: True allyship involves understanding and addressing the challenges faced by the Black community. It’s about meaningful actions, not just words.

Insights from TECHNATION’s Senior Vice-President

TECHNATION’s Senior Vice-President of Industry and Diversity and Inclusion stated, “We are immensely proud of our collaboration with Amazon to host an impactful discussion on empowering Black leadership in technology and innovation. The insights shared by the panelists resonated deeply, highlighting the urgency of investing in Black talent and creating pathways for future leaders. Our members and community leaders who attended valued the discussions and echoed the critical need for such dialogues in our continued journey towards diversity and inclusion. The event was more than just a meeting; it was a powerful display of unity and progress, marked by an electric energy and a shared vision for a future where Black talent thrives in the tech industry.”

A Unified Call for Equity in Black Talent

The event was appreciated by everyone in attendance. To close Wayne Purboo left the audience with, “The true wealth of a nation lies not in its physical resources, but in its people. In Canada, we are yet to fully harness the immense value and potential of our Black talent. The opportunity before us is a moral and economic imperative. We must change the way we hire and promote, opening doors wider for Black talent. This is not about quotas; it’s about equal opportunities and allowing Black professionals to take their rightful place in shaping the future of Canada. Let’s commit to this change, for the Black community and for the enrichment of all Canadians.”

Let his words guide us as we work towards a more inclusive and equitable future.

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