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By Sandra Lopes, Maytree
At Maytree and Civic Action, when we talk about diversity in leadership, we often argue that we need to “collapse natural timelines.” Why would we say this knowing that change is inevitable, and, with time, it will happen regardless?
Because there is nothing natural about these natural timelines.
In 1991, 26% of the Toronto CMA’s population were visible minorities. What would be natural is to expect that twenty years later at least a quarter of our leadership would be visible minorities. But this is not the case. According to our DiverseCity Counts research, in 2011 only 14.5% of leaders in the most diverse areas of the GTA were visible minorities.
The slow pace of change is shocking. It is unnatural. A lack of networks, old-fashioned hiring criteria, and racism (whether intended or not) are barriers to leadership for visible minorities.
To encourage organizations to make diversity a priority, we often emphasize the economic reasons to take action. Research has found that leadership diversity is linked to enhanced financial performance, better access to new markets, and innovation.
But leadership diversity is important for many reasons that have nothing to do with the bottom line.
In Toronto, racialized minorities are three times more likely to live in poverty than other groups, and between 1980 and 2000 the poverty rate among racialized families rose by 361%. Equal representation at all levels, including the most senior and best paying positions in the GTA, would improve the incomes of visible minorities in the GTA.
Diversity in leadership will also encourage the next generation of visible minorities to aspire to higher education and professional success. When they see their peers as leaders in mainstream institutions, they are more likely to see those institutions as their own, and want to contribute to making them – and our city – stronger. Institutions that fail to become diverse risk being perceived as exclusionary or, worse, as irrelevant.
Diversity in the voluntary sector, where only 12.5% of leaders are visible minorities, would enhance the sector’s ability to address the needs of a diverse and often marginalized population.
On June 6, we will release new research on how voluntary sector organizations can diversify their organizations, and how they can maximize the benefits of the diversity they already have. The research has been prepared by Chris Fredette, Assistant Professor at Carleton University.