Thirty per cent of minority Canadians experienced discrimination at work: survey

TORONTO — Thirty-per cent of Canadians who identify with a specific diversity group, including visible minorities and LGBTQ, have experienced at least one incident of discrimination at their current employer, a new survey suggests.

The poll, commissioned by the Boston Consulting Group’s Centre for Canada’s Future, found that 33 per cent of women said they had encountered at least one discriminatory incident, as did 33 per cent of LGBTQ and 34 per cent of those who identify as people of colour.

The percentage was higher for Indigenous respondents at 40 per cent, and for those with a disability at 41 per cent, according to the survey.

“That’s too high,” said BCG’s managing director and senior partner Nan DasGupta in an interview.

“It’s probably not what most Canadians would feel comfortable with in terms of how we think about the inclusivity of our culture, of our society, and our workplaces. So we think there is a lot of work to do still.”

BCG’s Centre for Canada’s Future, a non-profit arm of the consulting company focused on examining issues of importance to Canada, surveyed 5,082 working Canadians at companies with more than 1,000 employees in a variety of industries and roles.

The poll was conducted via an online panel from April 10 to May 1.

According to the polling industry’s generally accepted standards, online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population.

While there is room for improvement, the survey’s results showed that Canadians fared better than similar countries when it came to obstacles to diversity and inclusion in recruitment, retention, advancement and leadership commitment at their companies, said DasGupta.

For example, among LGBTQ respondents, 24 per cent said there were obstacles in employee retention, compared with 32 per cent in Australia, 33 per cent in Denmark, Norway and Finland, 35 per cent in the U.K. and 36 per cent in the U.S.

Also, about 30 per cent of female respondents said there obstacles in recruitment, compared with 38 per cent in Australia, 39 per cent in the United Kingdom, 33 per cent in the U.S. and 31 per cent in Denmark, Norway and Finland, the BCG survey showed.

“Actually, the Canadian results fare pretty well… fewer people see obstacles on most dimensions,” DasGupta said.

However, Canada lagged behind the three Nordic countries sampled when it came to respondents views on obstacles in retention, advancement and leadership for women. DasGupta noted that Nordic nations have more progressive policies in terms of family benefits and gender equality.

“We still fare quite well compared to the other developed countries, but the Nordics have made much greater strides,” she said.

As well, the poll’s findings showed that those at the top were more optimistic about the company’s progress on diversity and inclusion than the actual employee base. For example, 52 per cent of Canadian executives surveyed said the firm had made progress in improving diversity in its top management team over the past one to three years, but just 40 per cent of non-executives agreed.

“Executive groups are actually skewed towards people who don’t have diversity as part of their makeup, and so they are a little bit less aware of some of the obstacles and don’t perceive the biases as much,” said DasGupta.

However, she noted, those at the upper levels of the firm are also more aware of diversity and inclusion initiatives that are underway.

DasGupta says that one way to push for progress is for executives to communicate the importance of these initiatives not just to the C-suite, but to middle managers as well.

“Make sure that if you are prioritizing this as a company, and you should, that that is getting disseminated and cascaded down to all of your leaders… Because we already know that that’s really what shapes the experience of most employees.”

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