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Sunday, November 28, 2021

Technology summit looks to encourage more Black youth to get into the industry

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Technology is one of the fastest-growing industries in North America, yet an industry group reports only 9.3 per cent of those who work in the Canadian tech sector are Black.

That statistic inspired a group of former and current athletes to try to change that by encouraging more Black youth and young professionals to get involved in the industry.

The Tech Summit Black was created by Randy Osei and it will be held on Saturday. The summit will feature a range of athlete entrepreneurs and business leaders from the Black community, who are all hoping they can get their message out to help bridge the gap in the misrepresentation.

Osei, who founded the Athlete Tech Group — a platform that connects professional athletes with investment opportunities, told Global News with the tech industry continuing to increase, Black youth need to see it as a career path.

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“With this growing emerging industry as it continues to grow, I know in 2020 that it created the most amount of billionaires that grew by 41 per cent,” he said.

“If we’re talking about reducing economic gaps, reducing social inequality, we need chances. We need opportunities in these spaces to be a part of these conversations and these industries as well.”

Osei added that children from racialized communities usually don’t consider choosing careers in tech because of how the sector is often viewed.

“We don’t see technology as something that’s considered cool, but the jobs that are being paid for, people that are developing things that are solving people’s problems, are six-figure jobs and they’re not hard jobs to get to,” he said.

“But you have got to understand what that pathway looks like and what the opportunities look like as you go along those pathways.”

That push for more diversity in the tech sector led professional hockey player Jordan Subban to create Ujimaa, a marketplace that amplifies BIPOC-owned businesses.

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Subban said he is hoping he can use his status as a professional athlete to encourage more children to see the tech sector as a valuable path to pursue.

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“It’s hard when you see nobody that looks like you … and everybody else is sort of praising you for being an athlete, which is great, but you know that’s not all you can be. You define yourself,” he said.

“And if I could hopefully have success and encourage more young Black youth to still do what you love and play the sports that you love, but also to just look at this as an option.”

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Subban said more work is needed on the education front in order to enable children from racialized communities to see themselves working in the tech industry.

“Those things are not necessarily taught to kids, at least when I was going through the school system and specifically … not in the Black community to some that’s not even talked about … and I think for a long time, people didn’t understand the value of having those skills,” he said.

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WNBA player Angel McCoughtry who also got bitten by the tech bug and launched A3Ventures is hoping more Black athletes will follow the path that she and Subban have taken.

“We want to see more Black athletes, Black people get involved in tech because there are so many talented people out here that can just bring so many amazing, different ideas,” she said.

“And I always look at different stories like Steve Jobs and all these people, how they started and they just started with an idea and that idea has taken them places they probably never imagined, so that’s why I tell you, especially Black athletes, to just start with the idea.”

The Las Vegas Aces forward said she is hoping that herself and the other panelists taking part will get the message across to the next generation and inspire them to get into the world of technology.

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