It’s June – Pride Month – and although this year’s celebrations are inevitably looking a little different due to a worldwide pandemic, that doesn’t change the fact that 2SLGBTQIA+ communities around the globe are coming together virtually to celebrate the freedom they have to be themselves. Both Pride Toronto and Ryerson, among several organizations, have moved annual activities to a digital format.
At the same time, Pride this year also comes at a time where cities around the world are protesting the death of George Floyd, police brutality and systemic racism, reinforcing the connection of both movements and the importance of intersectionality. It serves as a reminder of Pride’s roots of protesting inequalities, and also as a time to acknowledge the historical roles that Black activists played in the fight for gay rights.
Equity over everything
At the DMZ, our number one value is equity over everything. While diversity in Canada’s tech ecosystem is improving, it has a long way to go. We reinforce our commitment to equity and inclusion by levelling the playing field for diverse founders coming into our programs. Not everyone begins at the same starting line, which is why we provide tailored support to ensure every founder who walks through our doors succeeds – regardless of their sexual orientation, ethnicity, race, gender or ability.
“At the DMZ, our focus is on the people behind the products and helping them successfully build their business. We recognize the experiences and challenges that 2SLGBTQIA+ entrepreneurs have are unique, meaning those individuals may require different approaches or types of support” explains Vanessa Shiu, DMZ’s Manager of Administration, Diversity & Inclusion. “When we develop our programs and services, our team consistently asks the question, ‘how do we make sure we are being inclusive’ and ‘how can we break down barriers for diverse founders’. Above all, we make sure we listen to our founders’ experiences and their feedback to inform us how we can help with their unique challenges.”
From day one of our programming, we also support our startups in making diversity a priority across all areas of their own business – from recruiting talent to building product offerings. We’re proud to see the value that diversity carries amongst the startups that come through our programs.
Off2Class, a DMZ alumni startup that combines interactive ESL lesson content with the power of a student management system, is a great example:
“Diversity for us is a business imperative. We service clients in 100+ countries. If our workforce wasn’t diverse, we simply wouldn’t be able to scale to the extent we have.” Kris Jagasia, Founder of Off2Class explains. “Our team is made up of newcomers, LGBTQ+ individuals, females, Muslims, Hindus and white males! We also show our dedication to diversity and inclusion by representing diverse individuals on our blog.”
We reached out to our greater community to ask organizations about their ongoing initiatives supporting the 2SLGBTQIA+ community – and not just during Pride month, but also year-round.
The Fasken Pride Network
Fasken, a DMZ Professional-in-Residence (PiR) and full-service law firm with offices in Canada, the U.K., South Africa and China, is committed to diversity in the workplace year-round. Diversity is a key element in the success of the Firm, helping to foster inclusiveness and encouraging innovation. Overseeing this effort is the Firm’s Diversity Committee. In recognition of its importance, the Committee is co-chaired by the Firm Managing Partner.
The Fasken Pride Network was established to encourage internal, client, and prospective client development of 2SLGBTQIA+ inclusion and community development. Fasken openly encourages Firm members, clients, friends and any interested community members to attend and participate. Every June the Firm hosts an award-winning educational and networking event to bring the community together – it’s the highlight of the month, one that everyone looks forward to.
“Diversity and inclusion are our strength, and we welcome talented professionals from all backgrounds, races, origins, beliefs, and orientations to be part of our community,” says Marc Rodrigue, Partner and member of the Pride Network. “Though we recognize Pride especially in June, with the support of our clients and staff, we support our shared Pride all year.”
In 2015, DMZ PiR Goodmans was the first major law firm in Canadian history to enter a float in Toronto’s annual Pride Parade, an event witnessed by millions across the country and around the world. As a firm, they’ve never looked back.
Goodmans is committed to showing their True Colours, always.
“Whether it’s showing sector leadership as a founding member of the Law Firm Diversity and Inclusion Network (LFDIN), to upping the ante with the firm’s annual Pride celebrations, throughout the year, Goodmans collective love and support for the LGBTQIA+ community and culture of inclusivity is at the core of everything they do.” – Goodmans
While 2020 plans have now evolved to a virtual experience, Goodmans will be celebrating throughout June with special Pride events that can be accessed by all members of their community, including their families. These Pride events include children’s activities; a Drag Queen story-time and a Pride related science lesson, themed virtual cooking master classes, meet-ups framed within a virtual day in the life of Pride, and unique video initiatives.
DMZ has partnered with Venture Out (VO) on events and initiatives to celebrate Pride and bring awareness to the tech startup ecosystem. VO is Canada’s largest tech non-profit organization connecting members of the LGBTQ+ community with the expanding technology sector, including entrepreneurs, start-ups, role models, career opportunities, and professionals.
“VO’s commitment to the LBGTQ+ community means presenting content beyond the sanitized Diversity & Inclusion narrative that often permeates these spaces and exploring more impactful, unignorable topics, such as the intersection of race and class, climate change and surveillance capitalism.”
The organization’s annual tech conference, which has been a success over the last three years and has grown to attract over 650+ attendees, 45+ sponsors and 10+ community partners, was postponed due to COVID-19.
VO is participating in several Pride month activities, including:
- June 22: TechProud – Small Business & Digital Skills Week in collaboration with Google, LinkedIn, and Microsoft | Register here
- June 26: Pride 2020 – Designing for all: Why Accessibility Matters in collaboration with General Assembly
- TBD: Senior LGBTQ+ Leadership in collaboration with Venture Out’s parent organization, StartProud, and RBC
Learn more and find out how you can participate here.
Earlier this year, VO also hosted “Let’s Talk Employee Resource Groups” and an LGBTQ+ Career Fest for students and professionals.
Through the eyes of an entrepreneur
Andrew Wells is the CEO of Pinch Financial, a DMZ alumni, tech founder and member of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community – he explains he’s been fortunate to have felt supported by employees, investors and commercial partners throughout his entrepreneurial journey. “There is a strong kinship amongst LGBTQ founders in Toronto as we appreciate the privileges we have are the result of the hard work that was put in by those that came before us. There’s a sense of shared responsibility that comes with this and we do what we can to support one another as a result.” Andrew explains.
Andrew also explained initiatives that have truly made a positive impact in the community. “When I worked at RBC, we had an incredibly impactful LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Group (ERG). In addition to creating a sense of community and togetherness, the ERG was also responsible for creating awareness throughout the organization of matters that were important to our community. What made the ERG efficacious was its access to senior leadership. Change within any organization requires top-down leadership, so having the ear of RBC’s c-suites made all the difference.”