Athena Digital Leaders
Supporting more diverse leadership in artificial intelligence, machine learning and data science
Project Budget – $1.0M
Partner Co-investment – $0.5M
Supercluster Co-investment – $0.5M
Around the globe, artificial intelligence (AI) is proliferating rapidly across all aspects of business and everyday life. While there are tremendous growth and digital transformation opportunities associated with AI, Canada is still catching up to other countries when it comes to investing in technology and innovation.
Non-tech companies in some of Canada’s largest sectors, such as natural resources, retail and manufacturing, have an opportunity to leverage data effectively through an AI investment, including talent development and acquisition. At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated employment challenges for women, Indigenous peoples and other visible minorities in Canada.
Building on the success of the Athena Pathways pilot, the Athena Digital Leaders project seeks to increase technology adoption and foster more diverse technology leadership. Led by AInBC in collaboration with seven partners including KPMG, Simon Fraser University, the Immigrant Employment Council of BC and the Vancouver Economic Commission, the team will leverage the network and expertise of nine partners, more than 40 mentors and 25 hiring organizations to achieve two key objectives:
- Increase demand for AI, machine learning (ML) and data science (DS) skills by promoting adoption through thought leadership events and executive workshops
- Create a supply of diverse talent in these fields, especially for in-demand junior and mid-level leadership roles
The project will focus on developing 30 women, recent immigrants and racialized Canadians in AI, ML and DS. For example, the pandemic has made networking difficult for young people. In response, Athena participants will be invited to take part in thought-leadership activities with executives from diverse organizations. This will provide them with opportunities to build high-impact relationships with established leaders and increase their chances of landing a leadership position.
In addition, the team will provide financial incentives for companies new to AI to pursue four-month exploratory projects with seasoned and up-and-coming tech talent. Participating companies that determine a strong return of investment in their pilots could lead to long-term hires as well as new ways to grow their business and be more competitive in Canada and beyond.