We live in one of the most diverse cities in the world. Almost half of our residents are visible minorities. And if we are to believe the projections of Stats Canada, by 2031 this figure will rise to over 60 per cent.
Visible minorities are everywhere – in schools, on campuses, in the TTC, in the shops and malls of Toronto. But, they are still few and far between in places of privilege and power, in the leadership echelons of our city – on Bay Street, in Queen’s Park, or in board rooms.
As we publish our second DiverseCity Counts report, we once again point to the disconnect between who lives in the city and who has power and influence.
This year’s report by Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute on behalf of DiverseCity: The Greater Toronto Leadership Project tracks 3,348 leaders across the corporate, public, elected, education and nonprofit sectors. Findings show that just 14 per cent of leaders in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) are visible minorities (relative to 49.5 per cent of the population studied), up marginally from last year’s 13.5 per cent.
There are organizational trailblazers and laggards in each sector
This year, we dug deeper into the data to better understand the extent to which some organizations have made diversity a priority. There is some encouraging news. We found that:
- 21.9% of all the organizations examined have more than 20% of their leadership who are visible minorities;
- 80% of university boards of governors and 83.3% of college boards of governors have more than 20% visible minorities; and
- Most municipalities are represented by at least one representative who is a visible minority.
However, in other sectors, a majority of organizations have no visible minority representation at all. For example, 76.9% of corporate boards and 69.2% of corporate sector executive teams have no visible minorities. In the voluntary sector, 61.5% of charities and 80% of foundations have executive teams without any visible minorities.
This gap between high and low performers reinforces the importance of examining the practices of successful organizations in each sector in order to promote learning between organizations.
Media leadership mirrors corporate sector leadership
This year, we also took a special look at the news media that are most consumed by GTA residents. Media organizations are important institutions because they play a role in defining who is a leader in society and can shape the ambitions of those who wish to be leaders.
As in the corporate sector generally, visible minorities are under-represented on boards and among senior executives of large media corporations.
The research also revealed that visible minorities are under-represented among columnists, experts and even stock background photographs in newspapers. Visible minorities are also under-represented as hosts, experts and in the background of stories on the supper time broadcast news.
There are a number of simple and cost effective ways that mainstream media could diversify their news content. These include for example updating stock photography, identifying experts from diverse backgrounds by using databases such as DiverseCity Voices, and recognizing how diversity can strengthen journalism.
Recommendation for all sectors
Organizations which stand out for the progress they have made, even over a year, subscribe to some of these best practices; they:
- Understand the business case for diversity;
- Make diversity a strategic priority;
- Mainstream diversity through their business practices, from recruitment strategies to procurement policies;
- Develop and sustain excellent human resources practices;
- Develop the pipeline through succession planning and building a qualified pool of diverse leadership candidates; and
- Count because what gets measured gets done.
Why should we worry about the lack of visible minority leaders?
When our leadership doesn’t look like us, it signals that only some of us can rise to the top and the rest of us should mind our place. It tells us that we don’t have the right to be represented. And it means that the vision that guides us will be limited in its scope and potential.
Diversity in leadership has benefits in the workplace, in the boardroom and in the broader society. It can play a key role in a country’s economic prosperity because when there is diversity around the decision-making table, the performance of organizations improves, innovation happens and new solutions are generated.
So, ultimately, we need to bring diversity to leadership not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it will contribute to our shared social and economic prosperity.
For a more detailed analysis, download this year’s DiverseCity Counts report.
(This post first appeared on the Toronto Star blog “Your City, My City“).