In fact, a recent report by the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Waterloo, Ontario demonstrated just how good: For every 1 percent gain in ethno-cultural diversity, Canadian companies saw an average 2.4 percent rise in revenue, while productivity was boosted by 2.4 percent.
The report by Bessma Momani and Jillian Stirk was based on Statistics Canada workplace employee data, covering 7,900 workplaces between 1991 to 2005. “Diversity Dividend Canada’s Global Advantage” was designed to advance the diversity discussion past the rhetoric and make a compelling business case, rather than the typical feel-good arguments about societal good.
For all the business logic, however, the fact remains that progress remains disturbingly slow. And business sectors that you’d think would be most likely to embrace diversity are surprisingly not. Take a sector that’s all about disrupting the status quo – tech. Its lack of diversity is notorious. And it’s not just women, but people of color who are largely missing from their ranks.
Major tech players like Google, Facebook and Microsoft all provide workforce demographics that observers say are relevant to Canada’s situation. Google’s 2017 diversity report, for example, shows some progress in adding women to its ranks – now up to 20 percent of its tech workers, up from 17 percent in 2014. Ethnic diversity, though, has been a stagnant proposition, with only 1 percent of its tech workers black and 4 percent Hispanic.
It’s a window into what’s also occurring in the Canadian tech community, where specific data is not readily available. There’s a particular mismatch in Toronto between the diversity of its tech businesses and that of the broader city.
“You can just take a walk around the offices of any major tech company … people of colour simply don’t get hired,” Andray Domise, a Jamaican native, told the Globe and Mail. He’s the 35-year-old founder of Techsdale, which teaches at-risk Toronto youths how to code video games.
But, the bigger picture for Canada shows that there are forward-thinking organizations that understand the full range of benefits created by a diverse workforce. The Diversity 100 — Canada’s best diversity employers chosen in an annual Globe and Mail editorial competition — recognizes those who are leading the way. Among those recognized? Firms like McCarthy Tétrault in Toronto, where women comprise half the leadership team and 36 percent of its board of directors. Or the City of Ottawa, which last year fueled its outreach to immigrant communities via over 30 recruitment fairs, 34 information sessions, 57 community outreach events and 18 pre-employment workshops.
Zabeen Hirji , Special Advisor and former CHRO at Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), suggests that it takes a long perspective to appreciate the strides that have been taken. Indeed, when she began at RBC in 1977, Hirji had no role models for becoming a senior executive as no women or visible minorities held executive positions at that time. However, much has changed. Today, at RBC in Canada, women hold over 40 per cent of executive roles and visible minorities hold 15 per cent of executive roles. The challenge, though, is for more businesses to adopt that attitude – and to realize that in this advancing 21st century, diversity should be an imperative, not an option.
In 2014, the Ontario Securities Commission created a “Comply or Explain” mandate requiring FP500 companies to have written gender diversity policies or publicly explain why they haven’t.
In its 2016 Annual Report Card, the Canadian Board Diversity Council stated that not only did fewer respondents report written policies (46.4 percent versus 49 percent in 2015), but board diversity among them continues to move at a snail’s pace. Women held 21.6 percent of FP500 board seats in 2016, up 2.1 percent from 19.5 percent the previous year. While that’s up, gender diversity is actually decreasing given a 2.4 percent rise in 2015 – the largest since 2001. Further, directors who self-report as visible minorities also declined from 2015.
Sherri Stevens, CEO of the Council, reiterated the link between diversity in driving a company’s financial performance. “It’s better than groupthink,” she said in a news release. “More top executives are recognizing this connection between diversity and performance, but what we need now is a greater sense of urgency to implement policies and create change.