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Celebrating Canada's Diversity

Advancing Inclusion: Charting Canada’s Journey Toward a Diverse and Sustainable Workforce

Brittany Gataveckas

Social Sustainability Manager, UN Global Compact Network Canada

“Diversity is Canada’s strength” is a phrase that widely appears when governments, businesses, nonprofits, and institutions reflect on our economy and labour market. Statistics Canada demographic figures do not lie: according to the 2021 Census, 23 per cent of the population identify as foreign-born immigrants, Indigenous people account for 5 per cent of the total population, there are more than 450 ethnic or cultural origins represented across the country, 41.2 per cent of people in Canada are bilingual, one in 300 people in Canada over 15 years of age identify as transgender or non-binary, and according to a 2017 survey, 22 per cent of Canadians over 15 years of age report having at least one disability. This diversity is reflected across Canada in our workplaces, public spaces, neighbourhoods, and families.

The business case for inclusivity

When it comes to diversity in the workplace, the case for inclusion is no longer up for debate as research continuously proves the benefits. To sum up the key evidence, according to Catalyst, organizations with diverse workforces recruit and retain talent at higher rates, they maximize productivity because people feel happier and more comfortable in workplaces with less discrimination, and they foster greater creativity, innovation, and responsiveness to customer/ client demands, collaborators can process information more critically, solve problems faster, and make better decisions, they have fewer instances of corruption and improved risk-management practices, and they have stronger reputations leading to more robust financial and operational performance. 

When it comes to diversity in the workplace, the case for inclusion is no longer up for debate as research continuously proves the benefits.

While the evidence is overwhelming, a gap exists when it comes to organizations that are actively working to increase representation of diverse groups for two key reasons: setting ambitious, time-bound representation targets can be intimidating; and, it is daunting, especially for small organizations lacking resources and support, trying to turn a commitment to greater diversity into tangible action with visible results. While these barriers to progress are legitimate and considerable, they shouldn’t lead to inaction. More than ever, we need organizations in Canada to rise to the challenge by demonstrating leadership in the equity, diversity, and inclusion space.

UN Global Compact Network Canada and the 50 – 30 Challenge

The UN Global Compact Network Canada has worked with businesses across Canada that are making progress on building more inclusive workplaces, especially those that have made a strong commitment to improving diverse representation via the 50 – 30 Challenge. The Government of Canada launched the 50 – 30 Challenge to encourage organizations across Canada to increase the representation of women and equity-deserving groups on boards and/ or in senior management roles in line with the following targets: gender parity (50 per cent women and/ or non-binary people); and significant representation (30 per cent) of equity-deserving groups (racialized people, people with disabilities, members of the LGBTIQ2S+ community, and Indigenous peoples). Any organization in Canada can commit to the 50 – 30 Challenge; with this commitment, your organization becomes eligible for support, services, training, etc. being offered by Ecosystem Partners to help Challenge participants to build more inclusive and equitable workplaces.

Practical steps towards workplace inclusion

How are organizations succeeding in increasing diverse representation and inclusion? By starting small, working one step at a time, and scaling efforts. Setting a time-bound representation target to guide your organization’s efforts can ensure accountability and enhance capacity for greater diversity, but without a holistic focus on building an inclusive work environment and culture, efforts to meet a target will fail. Representation is the end goal; a quantifiable metric based on hiring, retention, and promotion. The real measure of an equitable workplace comes from qualitative indicators of inclusion related to employee well-being, respect, comfort, safety, and freedom from discrimination or undignified work. Adapting a framework such as the United Nations Global Compact Management Model, based on a “commit, assess, define, implement, measure, and communicate” structure to provide strategies for your diversity, equity, and inclusion work can help integrate these efforts into your organizational culture and operations, accelerating the likelihood of success.

Diversity as a cornerstone of corporate sustainability

Increasing the representation and inclusion of women and equity-deserving groups is not a fad; it is a fundamental principle of corporate sustainability. When done right, improving equity, diversity, and inclusion in the workplace should cut across your organization’s sustainability priorities and align with recognized frameworks like the Sustainable Development Goals. The UN Global Compact Network Canada is here to support businesses that are working to incorporate diversity, equity, and inclusion within their corporate sustainability agenda by using the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact in four key areas: human rights, labour, environment, and anti-corruption. Join the UN Global Compact today to demonstrate corporate leadership and contribute to the movement of organizations building a Canadian labour market free from discrimination, inequity, and systemic barriers of oppression. 

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