ICUBE team member Fizza Akhzar sat down (virtually) with George Hinin and Nicholas Payne from the Queen’s Student Entrepreneurship (QEC) Pitch Competition team, to discuss this year’s upcoming competition, their focus on EDI (Equity, Diversity, Inclusion), and their future expectations.

Tell us about the competition!

“QEC Pitch competition is very similar to Shark Tank. Teams pitch their ideas to investors to compete for the top 16, and only the top 3 finalists compete for over $80,000 in prizes. This year’s competition will be a virtual event running from 13th to 15th January.”

Can you tell us more about the thought process that led to focusing more on EDI (Equity, Diversity, Inclusion)?

“A lot that happened at Queens lately reflected the need for diversity, and we also spoke to a few students, and their demands and opinions on diversity were one major push towards putting more focus on EDI in the competition. Also, when we consulted the ICUBE team, the immense emphasis was around the suggestion that we should highlight EDI more on our website.”

What changes have you made to the competition regarding EDI?

“We do a fantastic job at having diverse judges and speakers in

the competition, but we weren’t exhibiting it as finely as compared to our competitors. So, we figured that one of the ways we could do that was by showcasing it on our website, and especially in terms of our sponsors. Through this course of action, we’re trying to give a message to our competitors that we’re putting forward the best of the best.

Other than the website and sponsors, we make sure to push EDI through anti-oppression and inclusive mandatory training for our team. Our team is provided with articles and videos to watch in terms of learning how to avoid creating a bias in the competition in any aspect and to improve our internal executives. Moreover, to monitor our compliance, we have KPIs in place, for instance, keeping the ratio for male and female judges at 50%. This is what we are also trying to display on our social media”

How do you know that these changes will represent your mission appropriately?

“We have someone who designs and creates our branding material, and we always take a second look at it to see if it’s following our guidelines, and there’s a review process to examine if it’s promoting diversity in the competition. Among our internal team of 22, we have anonymous forums to bring out ideas and opinions if we can do anything better. We came up with the forums after we held some roundtable discussions on EDI but observed that it’s harder for people to voice their opinion in person if they think it’s going to be against the group. So, anonymity helps to improve our efforts in promoting EDI”

Do you expect improvements in your social media by incorporating EDI in this year’s competition?

“Changes haven’t been analyzed statistically yet, but we are expecting a pretty large pool of applicants from around the world. And when they get the chance to notice the diversity in the event on our social media, we believe they’ll be more inclined to apply.”

What are your plans and expectations for this upcoming competition?

“It’s bittersweet – the switch to online because we’ll miss the in-person interaction. However, there are huge benefits to holding the competition online. Now we have access to a greater number of applicants than ever, a more diverse group especially. Since they don’t have to fly over to Toronto, we’re getting applications even from Europe, Asia, etc. That is definitely more exposure for QEC”

Applications are now live!  Check the QEC website to apply now!