DIVERSE Special: Diversity & Workplace

Diversity in Canadian Workplaces (2)

What are the obstacles to a better form of ¡°diversity¡± in the workplace?

Words, research & photos by Myungsook Lee



Where do Canadians stand on the ¡°diversity in the workplace¡± spectrum?

The chart (page 16) of ¡°Representation of the Designated Groups,¡± reported by Federally Regulated Private Sector Employers, partly shows a picture of the circumstances of where we are. Although diversity in the workplace seems to have been improved for decades, there is a wide space where we still need to work together. The rate in 2008 was 1.9 per cent of Aboriginal peoples, 2.7 per cent of persons with disabilities, 10 per cent of visible minorities, and 42.6 per cent of women. The number would be different depending on sector, industry and services.

Other research results give us a more detailed picture of where we are with diversity in the workplace. For example, according to a study by Ryerson University, immigrants are under-employed in Canada. The report pointed out that not only do they earn 85% what Canadian born workers earn in spite of having higher levels of education; they also face barriers to career advancement. Visible minorities were 18% of the population in 2008 but account for a much smaller percentage of leaders. They are less likely to believe that their workplace is fair and equitable.

This report continually emphasized the issue of each designated group. For example, Aboriginal peoples could add $71 million to the Canadian economy by 2017 if educational gaps were eliminated. Let¡¯s talk about the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered group. This report says 36% of GLBT employees who experience discrimination will change careers. In addition, 74% of GLBT and 42% of straight consumers are less likely to buy from organizations with a negative view of GLBT persons.

Moving to people with disabilities, this report also reveals that according to the 2006 census, an estimated 14.3% of the population has some form of disability. Failing to reasonably accommodate people with disabilities can negatively affect a corporation¡¯s reputation and performance.

Finally, how about women? The report notes that the gender wage gap persists. In 1980 women earned 60.2% of men¡¯s wage; this number is now 81%.


More benefits or more cost?

Many companies don¡¯t have the confidence to take on the leadership of diversity in the workplace because it is costly. Wendy Cukier points out that this situation is especially pronounced in small and medium enterprises (SMEs): ¡°In spite of the long-term advantages, many employers are not taking full advantage of Canada¡¯s diverse workforce. SMEs—which often have more limited resources, less flexibility and shorter planning horizons—tend not to pay as much attention to human resources planning and management, at their peril.¡±

Some researchers are more sceptical about the fundamental relationship between ¡°diversity¡± and ¡°performance.¡± For example, the report, The Effects of Diversity on Business Performance, by The Diversity Research Network, argues that there is little research conducted in actual organizations that addresses the impact of diversity or diversity-management practices on financial success. It insists that there is a lack of evidence regarding the impact of diversity in workplace.

There are two main reasons for this scepticism. According to the report, one is that diversity in workplace raised sensitive issues that are difficult to discuss. The other is that the relationship and the bottom line is more complex than is implied by popular rhetoric.

Gandz also states some concerns: ¡°Many discussions of diversity are based on rhetoric rather than cool, reasoned argument.¡± He adds that the rhetoric comes from ¡°many people who have strong advocacy positions, or people who identify themselves as members of groups who have suffered from discrimination related to opportunities in the workplace.¡±

PHOTO 1: Judy Lam Maxwell, a historical researcher in Chinese transnational migration and modern Jewish history, delivers a presentation called ¡°From Sojourners to Citizens.¡±  

PHOTO 2:  From the BC Workplace Diversity & Inclusion Awards Ceremony at the BC Workplace Diversity Conference, which took place on March 22, 2011 in Vancouver.

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DIVERSE 5th Issue

We are pleased to announce that DIVERSE 5th issue, Summer 2011 has been released.  

12 Diversity in Canadian Workplaces What are the obstacles to a better form of ¡°diversity¡± in the workplace?

- Open Door Group

- BC Workplace Diversity Inclusion Awards

6 BC¡¯s Diversity through 30 portraits



2 ThePower of Exchange A Historic Collaboration between Germany¡¯s

Premiere Art Collections and Canada¡¯s First Nations

28 Ezra Kwizera  Born in Uganda to Rwandese refugee parents, Canadian Musician and genocide  survivor speaks on the art of  forgiveness and of adapting to Canadian culture

42 Dana Claxton  

The Mustang Suite: Questioning mobility, freedom and autonomy 


24 Gung Haggis Fat Choy in Vancouver, BC: The Diversity of Canada      

38 Denise Brillon Breaking barriers in the fashion world



32 Pysanky¡¯s Resurgence

Joan Brander¡¯s contribution to the renaissance in traditional

Ukrainian egg art


10 Publisher¡¯s Note

27 Benefits of being a bilingual writer

31 Canadians come in all differences



35 News Briefs on Multiculturalism

36 Publisher¡¯s Picks


You Can Order Here.


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