Companies building diversity surveys must consider metrics of “belonging”


As Peter Parker (Spiderman) discovers his newfound powers, his uncle, Ben reminds him “with great power comes great responsibility.” With all eyes on the Canadian tech community thanks to our burgeoning tech ecosystem, Uncle Ben’s words are more relevant now than ever.

Diversity metrics are important, but it’s time to build better accountability, evaluation, and metrics.

All eyes are on the Canadian tech community because we’re getting a lot right. Canada’s VC community is setting record investment numbers as VC in Canada hit a 15-year high in 2016, with a total of $3.7 billion invested. Government investment is also strong, as the government works with the private sector through the AI-focused Vector Institute and initiatives like its Superclusters plan.

We’re also vocal in our support of inclusion. Just earlier this year, members of the Canadian tech community signed an open letter citing diversity as a source of significant strength and opportunity for the community. Written in response to the Trump administration’s Executive Order to block entry of citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries, the letter has received 3,506 signatures of support to date.

As evidenced by the likes of Elevate Toronto, DITTO meetups, and TechGirls Canada, conversations about diversity and inclusion in Canadian tech are becoming more commonplace. In spite of this great work, few Canadian tech companies are collecting meaningful data on their demographics, and even fewer are making a material investment in diversity and inclusion efforts.

What are we missing?

For the past few years, our neighbours in Silicon Valley have released diversity reports. However, these reports, for the most part, focused on representational diversity, meaning that most of the reports have counted the number of people from each group: woman (check), lesbian (check), person of colour (check).

We are all so much more than the boxes that we check.

While representational diversity numbers are necessary to have as a baseline so that we can measure our progress, we know that these numbers do not fully capture our complex identities, nor do they capture our unique stories. We are all so much more than the boxes that we check.

We know that a diversity of perspectives, thoughts, and experiences matters, and we also know that an inclusive workplace contributes to employee engagement. But what if employees do not feel like they can be their authentic selves at work? Some of the latest research in this area indicates that diversity and inclusion efforts will fall short if employees do not feel like they belong.

Data is power

As a way to support the Canadian tech community to become a global leader in our diversity, inclusion, and belonging efforts, we partnered with the team at Fortay, a leading culture scaling and analytics platform, to design the Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging Canadian Tech Survey, or DIBs for short.

To design DIBs, we explored the latest research in the fields of diversity, inclusion, and belonging and built on shared resources from Silicon Valley’s Project Include, as well as the Community Survey and Reporting Framework that Hubba led the way with in August.

Our intention with DIBs is to capture diversity, inclusion, and belonging metrics within the Canadian tech community so that we can have a benchmark to measure our progress in the coming years:

  • DIBs is a complementary offering available to all Canadian tech companies, hosted on the Fortay platform
  • DIBs is voluntary and anonymous
  • DIBs is designed with a Canadian-specific question and demographic set
  • DIBs is designed with a continuous slider bar to ensure that we capture granular data
  • We will follow-up with a report that openly shares and discusses the DIBs survey results with the Canadian tech community

“DIBs will provide Canadian tech companies with actionable insights to make a direct impact in their DIBs efforts. Our goal is to get an honest understanding of what’s going on in the tech industry and to share these insights broadly,” said Marlina Kinnersley, co-founder and CEO of Fortay. “Most importantly, though, we want to do this work in a way that helps everyone learn and grow together. This is difficult work, and we need to support each other through the process.”

It’s time to explore below the surface

DIBs stands for diversity, inclusion, and belonging. Diversity means appreciation of differences, whether it be our ethnicity, gender identity, age, disability, sexual orientation, education, or religion, just to name a few. Inclusion is a state of our differences being valued and respected, and ensuring the right conditions are in place for each person to achieve their full potential. Belonging is the feeling of security, support, and acceptance when people can be their authentic selves.

Or, if you like to think of things in terms of dessert like we do, if “diversity” can be understood as the ingredients required to make a cake, “inclusion” is the recipe that brings the ingredients together, and “belonging” is the ability for everyone to enjoy the finished product in a way that is authentic to them.

Diversity metrics are important, but it’s time to build better accountability, evaluation, and metrics.
As the Canadian tech community better harnesses its “spidey senses,” we feel that Canada is well-positioned to develop a leading DIBs standard for the global tech industry.

So, Canada, let’s move the conversations around diversity in tech from mere water cooler talk to become part of the water supply. It is up to us to lead the way because diversity can be Canada’s strength if, and only if, we design it deliberately and intentionally.

About the Authors

Sarah Saska

While pursuing her Ph.D. at Western University, Sarah Saska developed research on the importance of diversity in innovation. Realizing the importance of her research, Sarah became a fellow at MaRS Discovery District to gain the support she needed to translate her research into practice. Now, as the co-founder and managing partner of Feminuity, Sarah works with innovative companies around the world to help them embrace diversity, inclusion, and belonging strategies to design better products, processes, and services and to build company cultures where people can thrive.

Sarah is a member of the Advisory Council for The MATCH International Women’s Fund, sits on the board of directors for Wen-Do Women’s Self Defence, and is named amongst Women’s Executive Network’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada. Sarah’s lives in Toronto with her dog, Gordon.

Ivana Lochhead

Ivana Lochhead is a brand and marketing strategist with a data-driven and human-centered design approach to solving business challenges and implementing positive change. After four years at a leading brand strategy and customer insights firm working on select global brands, Ivana shifted direction and pursued her MBA where she discovered her passion for entrepreneurship, innovation, and diversity and inclusion. Ivana is a firm believer in the practice of empathy and human connection (across all groups, both dominant and minority) as critical gateways to building safe and synergetic environments for constructive change.

Now as partner at Feminuity, Ivana is exploring strategies for diversity, inclusion, and belonging efforts at a company level and as well as more broadly across the Canadian tech ecosystem. Ivana is committed to having honest and hard conversations, reframing the diversity discussion to include and empower all groups, and challenging the diversity and inclusion status quo.

Photo via Unsplash



Feminuity a global consulting firm dedicated to helping companies navigate through the unmapped territory of diversity, inclusion, and belonging.

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