Tamar Huggins Grant, Founder and Executive Director of Tech Spark Canada

 

Throughout #BlackHistoryMonth, our BE in Tech series highlights some of the experiences of Black women in the Canadian tech industry.

Share your own experiences using the hashtag #BeInTech and tag us @joinmovethedial!

Founder and Executive Director of Tech Spark Canada, Tamar Huggins Grant shares her journey below.

1. As a black woman in tech, what has been your biggest obstacle/challenge to date?


It’s challenging to ask for and receive the level of funding that is needed to create an impact. Black women in tech, unfortunately, are hardly ever taken seriously. It’s almost as if some folks choose not to acknowledge the varied challenges black people face in the tech industry.

Some folks have this colorblind mentality when it comes to organizations like Tech Spark, which is extremely problematic because what ends up happening is a large percentage of funding tends to go to white women in tech, but black women in tech are hardly ever taken seriously for the work that we’re doing and oftentimes we are doing deeper and more impactful work.


2.  Do you feel women of colour are currently underrepresented in your workplace?

I lead an organization that is 99%, black, and I’ve done that on purpose because I do believe that black excellence in tech and business exists and as a leader, it is part of my responsibility to showcase that to the world.

3.   If you could change one thing during your experience in tech and in the workplace what would it be?


I think it’s important that black women are recognized for their contributions to the tech industry and the entire movement of diversity in technology, I mean, I don’t think that there’s enough being done to financially support black women tech founders at all.

From my perspective as an entrepreneur, I receive a lot of praise for the work I do for the black community and receive confirmation that the work is needed, but that doesn’t always translate into dollars and cents. One thing I would change about my experience and for other black women in tech would be that we are seen for who we are, the struggle that we represent the work we put into making this industry great. Also that our efforts are matched equally in investor dollars or grant dollars, as they are with white women in technology.

4. Moving the dial is an ongoing mission we strive to do, is there someone or something that has inspired you to #movethedial in your journey. 


I would say that what really helps me move the dial in my journey are the young people that I have been placed on this earth to impact. Seeing their faces every day, experiencing their energy in the classrooms and really just observing their brilliance and the multiple forms that it comes in is amazing to me.

I have a soft spot in my heart for young people particularly black youth, and I have an overwhelming desire to see them succeed socially, economically and academically. And so, my commitment to them is what pushes me, and has pushed me to continue my journey. At the end of the day, it’s our responsibility as leaders to lead the future generation, it is something that I don’t take lightly at all. Tupac Shakur once said he may not be the one to change the world but if he can spark the minds of those that will change the world, he knows he’s done his job. What he said has become a mantra to me and my organization.

5.    What does being Black In Tech mean to you?

Being black in tech, to me means being a trendsetter, it means being a trailblazer. It means naturally stepping into our own because we don’t get a lot of credit for the impact that we have on pop culture. In fact, pop culture is black culture. When we look at technology creation and look at who’s using the technology versus who’s creating it, there’s a huge discrepancy.  I do believe strongly that those who are behind the creation of technology are using, and making money off of black culture and black communities are not being compensated for that.

Being a black person in tech means taking that ownership back. It means making others in the community aware of their power, and how we have always shaped popular culture and understanding that we have more than what it takes to be creators and innovators in a space where the dominant society has said we don’t belong.


6.    How can the industry move the dial for black women in tech? (either at an individual level or company-wide)

It just makes good business sense for investors to diversify their investment portfolios by including more technology companies doing innovative work, which is also led by black founders. Failure to do so is really a loss on their part as they are limiting their own deal flow. It’s very important that investors stop looking to invest in companies that are led by people that look like them, and start paying attention to the amazing work that we’ve always done in this industry.

I think corporations need to acknowledge the value we carry and start investing in the development of black in tech initiatives, that are directly aligned with their corporate social responsibility agenda because we exist! It isn’t enough to sponsor events anymore to check off their diversity box for the year.

They need to start putting their money where their mouth is and remember that diversity doesn’t start and end with supporting white women. It means acknowledging the struggle of those that have been overlooked and undervalued for so long.

Black female entrepreneurs contribute something like $600 billion to the North American economy, and that isn’t something that can or should be ignored anymore. We’ve been ignored and undervalued for too long, and our contribution is something that needs to be paid attention to.


 
Move the Dial