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Ashley Jane Lewis Is One Canadian Leader You Need To Know

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If there's one thing you should know about Ashley Jane Lewis, it's that she always sticks up for what she believes in.

The 27-year-old Toronto-based tech educator made headlines in February when she refused to sit on a panel hosted by Shopify’s Toronto office.

The event, which was supposed to highlight diversity in the tech industry, left a bad taste in Lewis' mouth after the company's CEO Tobi Lütke refused to cut ties with Breitbart, a site that promotes white nationalism and racism.

"I felt like I had been tricked almost," she tells The Huffington Post Canada. "I was invited into this ethos of, 'we care about marginalized women, we care about women' but then to be at its core in opposition to that."

ashley jane lewis

"[Lütke] released his Medium article and it was really unsatisfactory in my opinion to what we really should be addressing in this political climate," she continued.

"It has led me to have positive discourse in shifting a culture forward where we can talk about progressive ways that we can make positive change."

"[When you] remain neutral on a topic that is so horrendous, you are not doing your community any service. What marginalized people need right now is a rally around their defence."

ashley jane lewis

The Ryerson University new media grad grew up in Aurora, Ont., and was also named one of Canada's top 100 Black Women to Watch in 2016.

Lewis currently wears several different hats in the industry, and says it was art that pushed her towards her career.

"I took a program [at Ryerson] that fuses technology and art. It really showcased the potential to harness technology to reach the most amount of people."

But her true passion is to push for progress, especially in fields of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) that still lack diversity.

"Not everyone in the tech industry is progressively minded, but I'm happy to say that I've finally found a niche of people and roles that allows me to spend my days with others who are piloting towards positive, productive change for our future."

ashley jane lewis

After her experience with Shopify, Lewis wrote about her decision on social media, and even though she was hesitant at first, she received a ton of feedback from strangers who had similar stories working in tech.

"It has led me to have positive discourse in shifting a culture forward where we can talk about progressive ways that we can make positive change."

She also recently started teaching Ryerson undergrads how to code and created her own startup for women and youth of colour, allowing them to learn skills like 3D printing and laser cutting.

ashley jane lewis

In looking at how she and other like-minded people can help the tech industry be a lot more inclusive, Lewis says it's less about the direct barricades stopping people, and more about the indirect ones.

"Imagine that you have worked very hard as a person of colour or maybe a women or any sort of marginalized identity… Perhaps you go to eight lectures in a semester and not see one example of an engineer who looks like you. Perhaps you're recognizing that the work that you make when it is about people that look like you, it isn't received by the same standard as the work that presents a majority-based individual," she says.

"These are the indirect ways that women and all marginalized communities are being pushed out of these spaces."

Watch the full video above to learn more about Lewis.