There are challenges facing Black and Indigenous people entering the field of Artificial Intelligence, STEM, and tech in general. Both statistical data on workforce participation (1) and anecdotal evidence reflects that there are real barriers that require action. The purpose of Vector’s Introduction to ML course and internship programming is to increase the opportunities to build research and career pathways in AI for Black and Indigenous students in Canada. This initiative is designed to meet the criteria of Special Programs in line with the values of the Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code), to assist underrepresented groups to achieve equal opportunity in the field of AI.
(1) Based on 2016 Census data, Indigenous people make up 4% of adults in Canada but less than 2% of people working in STEM occupations are Indigenous (Analysis of 2016 Census data. Statistics Canada, “Data Products, 2016 Census.”). According to a Brookfield Study (2019) entitled Who are Canada’s Tech Workers? Indigenous people’s participation in tech occupations is less than half of non-Indigenous people’s participation in the field (2.2% vs. 5.2%). Similarly, Black people reflect 2.6% of the tech workforce but 3.5% of the population. A MaRS Discovery District analysis using a survey dataset powered by Fortay and Feminuity of tech workers in Toronto found that Black tech workers were more likely to report lower levels of diversity, inclusion and belonging compared to White, Asian, and other Visible Minorities.