2018 was a year of mixed progress for diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the Canadian labour market. On the positive side, unemployment rates for immigrants have been on the decline for the last five years,[1] and last year was not an exception.

Yet, inequalities continued to persist – for instance, Indigenous people were still less likely to be employed compared to non-Indigenous groups.[2] We have not bridged the earning gaps across racial and gender lines, and executive leadership positions continue to be almost “off-limits” to newcomers and racialized groups alike.[3]

With these insights at hand, we consider how the D&I trends could evolve in 2019:

 Enhancing diversity in management and leadership – Different reports and studies in 2018 showed that ethnic and gender diversity at the executive level leads to more innovative and profitable companies, and employees with higher motivation and engagement.[4] In 2019, resources and efforts should concentrate on the ‘how’ part – which policies and practices make leadership more diverse? How do organizations empower individuals that differ in gender, age, racial background and disability status, and remove organizational barriers for their access to managerial and executive positions?

 Acknowledging and addressing intersectionality[5] – It is often not being an immigrant, or women, or a person from racialized background alone that is associated with the most severe inequalities, but a combination of factors. Intersectionality is essential for understanding and improving the labour market experience of all individuals. One-dimensional approaches in looking at labour market outcomes (looking at aggregate figures only for gender, only for ethnicity etc.) have the potential to mask the degree and depth of inequalities.[6] 2019 would therefore be timely to rethink how we categorize individuals in the workforce and allow granular insights to lead to innovative, comprehensive policies.

Scaling efforts for integrating Indigenous populations and people with disabilities – Indigenous groups and people with disabilities face the most significant challenges in the workforce. Half of people with disabilities in Canada do not have a full- or part-time job.[7] Among the Indigenous population, only one in three people who identified themselves as First Nations are in employment.[8] Companies, whether due to an aging workforce or as part of their corporate responsibility activities, should be exploring innovative ways to tap these underutilized talent pools.

Advancing inclusion and beyond – Organizations are becoming more and more aware that diversity alone is not enough to drive innovation and engagement. Employers have been experimenting with ways to ensure that employees feel welcomed, accepted as well as committed – whether it is in the form of adopting more inclusive onboarding practices, increasing cultural awareness, supporting employee-driven initiatives (e.g. resources groups), or holding staff accountable for the D&I targets. The effectiveness of such practices remains to be seen[9] – but 2019 is likely to provide more data and insights. Employers would be continuing to pilot and validate these existing and new approaches.

Measuring and reporting impact – A recent survey among the D&I and HR professionals in Canada revealed that around 1/3rd of organizations do not measure the impact of their D&I efforts.[10] Employers often do not have measurement systems in place to assess how diverse and inclusive their workplace is. It is indeed hard for employers to measure their impact if they don’t know where to start. TRIEC is currently working on a Strategic Impact Measurement Guide that can help employers create a snapshot of what’s currently going on in their organization, to use this information to help them make decisions on which D&I challenges to address, and to determine measures in advance in terms of tracking impact both in the short-term and long-term. This is critical for making workplaces more inclusive and for generating support and buy-in from people at all levels in an organization.



[1] Statistics Canada. Table  14-10-0087-01, Labour force characteristics of immigrants by educational attainment, annual. Total, all education levels for prime working age (25-54).
[2] Statistics Canada. Table  14-10-0365-01, Labour force characteristics by region and detailed Aboriginal group.
[3] Conference Board of Canada, 2018. Measuring Up: Benchmarking Diversity and Inclusion in Canadian Organizations.
TRIEC, 2018. State of Immigrant Inclusion in the Greater Toronto Area Labour Market.
[4] Sodexo, 2018. Gender-Balance Study.
McKinsey, 2018. Delivering through Diversity.
[5] Intersectionality as defined in Merriam-Webster: “the complex, cumulative way in which the effects of multiple forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, and classism) combine, overlap, or intersect especially in the experiences of marginalized individuals or groups”
[6] See, for instance, Block, Sheila and Galabuzi, Grace-Edward, 2018. Persistent Inequality: Ontario’s Colour-coded Labour Market, CCPA.
[7] The Globe and Mail, 2017. “Only half of disabled Canadians are employed, poll finds.” Accessed January 15, 2019 https://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/economy/only-half-of-disabled-canadians-are-employed-poll-finds/article33650160/
[8] Statistics Canada. Table  14-10-0365-01, Labour force characteristics by region and detailed Aboriginal group.
[9] See, for instance, the “Tech for All: Breaking Barriers in Toronto’s Innovation Community” report by MaRS – companies in the tech sector have implemented various D&I practices such as diverse hiring panels and unconscious bias training, which did not automatically translate into stronger feelings of inclusion for different groups.
[10] Conference Board of Canada, 2018. Measuring Up: Benchmarking Diversity and Inclusion in Canadian Organizations.