Hiring for Diversity: Leading Initiatives Across industries

Canada’s diversity has always been central to its national identity, a reality that may be truer now than ever before. Today, diverse populations are enjoying unprecedented levels of educational attainment and legislative support. Parliament Hill is home to the most diverse cabinet in its history. Canada ranks among the most multicultural nations on the planet,1 and is in the process of welcoming new refugees from abroad while working to deepen the acknowledgement of its Indigenous history.

By reflecting the diversity of the Canadian population within its workforce, Canadian industry invariably benefits. Studies consistently confirm an intuitive phenomenon: companies are stronger and more innovative when they are comprised of a diversity of perspectives and voices. On an organizational level, a diverse employee base means having access to the best and brightest for each job.

Building a diverse workforce is also an important part of the puzzle for advancing the country’s global competitiveness, playing an essential role in increasing the size and the quality of the national talent pool. Statistics Canada projects that all net labour force growth after 2011 will be generated by new immigrants,2 and the percentage of visible minorities is expected to double. Amidst an aging workforce, the Indigenous population is exceptionally young and contributes to labour market growth at twice the average rate.3

So what exactly is workplace diversity? While there are many factors that contribute to the diversity of a society, employment equity places an emphasis on groups whose workforce participation has been limited as a result of historical, cultural, or systemic barriers. Diverse groups include New Canadians, visible minorities, Indigenous peoples, women, members of the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer) community, and persons with disabilities.4 In an effort to reduce the historical barriers felt by these groups, many organizations have developed policies, strategies, and initiatives focused on recruiting and retaining diverse employees.

Although recognition of the issue has received a wide level of acceptance across industry, Canadian companies still have a long way to go. Today, diverse employees are three times more likely to leave an organization because of lacking support from their employer.5 And although persons with disabilities remain significantly underemployed, a Statistics Canada survey reveals that 90 percent of people with disabilities did as well or better at their jobs than non-disabled co-workers.6

The successful introduction of meaningful levels of diversity into individual sectors is far less uniform. For some industries, making the change also means overcoming a historical lack of diversity and pervasive reputation that could slow progress. And yet it is from some of the industries historically touted as bastions for sameness that some of Canada’s best diversity initiatives have come.


The technology sector has been a fixture in the media in recent years as an industry starved for diversity. Although Canadian statistics are not readily available, diversity reports from the U.S. offer some indication. For instance, 94 percent of Google’s tech staff is white or Asian and 82 percent is male, with trends worsening at the senior level.7

This challenge has been acknowledged by global tech giants including Facebook and Google, with politicians and industry alike developing policies and programs to address the diversity shortage. Particularly in an industry whose massive growth is projected to continue unabated, bringing diverse populations into the fold is a necessity. Several companies across Canada are taking the lead.

Hewlett-Packard Diversity Programs and Support8


Persons with disabilities, women, visible minorities, Indigenous peoples, LGBTQ


  • Supplier diversity program that partners with organizations such as the Canadian Aboriginal and Minority Supplier Council to support minority, female, and Indigenous-owned businesses
  • “Ascend” and “Women in Technology” programs provide support for women’s career advancement and visibility
  • “Global Ability Leadership Council” promotes equal opportunity for persons with disabilities


Diversity Inclusion Manager; Diversity and Inclusion Centre of Excellence


  • Female employees 37.1%
  • Female managers 28.08%
  • Visible minority employees 18.99%
  • Visible minority managers 10.6%
  • Indigenous employees 1.05%
  • Indigenous managers 0.86%

Capgemini Canada Inc. Diversity Programs and Support10


Persons with disabilities, women, visible minorities, LGBTQ, generations


  • Supplier Diversity Director increases diversity of supply chain
  • Charitable program provides support to groups including women, LGBTQ persons, and new Canadians
  • “Women Leadership, Excellence, Action and Development” network and “Women@Gapgemini” global gender diversity initiative provide opportunities and support for women
  • Three-month leadership and development program for women includes training on a variety of topics and executive mentorship


Diversity and Inclusion Working Council; Supplier Diversity Director


  • Female employees 28.53%
  • Female managers 26.74%


Over the course of its history, the banking industry’s lack of diversity garnered considerable notoriety. Despite their prior reputation, however, banks were among the earliest adopters of widespread equitable hiring practices, quickly becoming leaders in the effort to build a more representative workforce. Today, banks boast some of the most diverse employee bases.

Nevertheless, there’s still progress to be made; despite the increase in diversity across the industry, there are some areas of the banking practice where diverse applicants still struggle to break through. For example, although women constitute 62 percent of the workforce at Canada’s six largest banks, only 32 percent of securities agents, investment dealers, and brokers are female.


As of 2014, women constitute 62.0% of the workforce at Canada’s six largest banks
Women occupied 34.5% senior management positions
Representation by people in visible minorities reached 29.6% in 2014
Visible minorities accounted for 12.1% of all senior management positions
Representation of people with disabilities: 4.1%
Recognizing the continued benefit of hiring for diversity, Canadian banks have implemented a number of programs to recruit – and retain – employees from diverse backgrounds.

RBC Diversity Programs and Support14


Persons with disabilities, women, visible minorities, Indigenous peoples, LGBTQ


  • “Women in Leadership” development program and in-house departmental groups organize events for female employees, including speaker series, networking opportunities, and workshops
  • “RBC Reciprocal Mentorship Program” offers mentorship for diverse suppliers in partnership with WEConnect and the Canadian Aboriginal and Minority Supplier Council
  • LGBTQ Inclusion Webcast Series promotes awareness and training
  • The firm recently implemented workplace gender transition guidelines to support employees who are in the process of gender transition


Diversity Leadership Council; Diversity and Inclusion Progress Reports


  • Female employees 63%
  • Female managers 52%
  • Visible minority employees 32%
  • Visible minority managers 31%
  • Indigenous employees 1.5%
  • Indigenous managers 1.1%

TD Diversity Programs and Support16


Persons with disabilities, women, visible minorities, Indigenous peoples, LGBTQ


  • Supports LGBTQ employees through 11 regional LGBTQ employee resource groups and an enterprise-wide “LGBTQA Pride Network”
  • Offers leadership development program, in partnership with the Humphrey Group, for visible minority employees
  • Women in Leadership group offers mentorship, networking, and developmental opportunities
  • Offers 10-day program, in partnership with the Rotman School of Business, to allow who have been out of the workforce for a lengthy period of time to update their skills
  • Facilitates group mentoring for employers with disabilities
  • Provides mandatory diversity and inclusion training, mental health awareness training, and cultural competency training


Diversity Leadership Council and sub-committees look to expand leadership opportunities for a number of diverse groups; Manager of Aboriginal Recruitment


  • Female employees 60.2%
  • Female managers 56.3%
  • Visible minority employees 29.5%
  • Visible minority managers 26.8%
  • Indigenous employees 1.3%
  • Indigenous managers 1.1%

Management consulting and professional services

Many areas of the business world carry a historied reputation for building homogeneous employee bases, and management consulting and professional services is no exception. That said, many companies in Canada have undertaken multi-pronged efforts to establish a culture of diversity within their organization.

Accenture Diversity Programs and Support18


Persons with disabilities, women, visible minorities, Indigenous peoples,
LGBTQ, military veterans


  • “Persons with Disabilities Champions” program focuses on enhanced mentorship, recruiting, and networking opportunities for employees with disabilities, and furthers the use of assistive technology in the workplace
  • LGBTQ employee networks provide opportunities for mentorship and training
  • 18-month diverse supplier program partners minority and female-owned businesses with Accenture executive mentors
  • Conducted national mental health survey focused on employee attitudes


Diversity Council; Inclusion and Diversity Advisory Committee; Women’s Steering Group


Female employees 32.6%
Female managers 30.4%
Visible minority employees 34.2%
Visible minority managers 35.4%
Indigenous employees 1.1%
Indigenous managers 1%

Deloitte Diversity Programs and Support20


Persons with disabilities, women, visible minorities, Indigenous peoples, LGBTQ, new Canadians


  • Recruits diverse candidates through partnership with ACCES Employment
  • “LEAD & Allies” group fosters supportive work environment for LGBTQ employees
  • “Proud to Lead” two-day development program, offered in partnership with The Humphrey Group, offers leadership and skill development to LGBTQ employees
  • Mentors new Canadian job seekers as a member of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council’s Mentoring Partnership


Equity and Diversity Committee; Diversity and Inclusion Policy; Cultural Diversity Plan


  • Female employees 55%
  • Female managers 47%
  • Visible minority employees 13%
  • Visible minority managers 10%
  • Indigenous employees 0.4%
  • Indigenous managers 0.4%


The face of the legal profession in Canada is changing dramatically, with remarkable diversity numbers amongst the youngest lawyers in an industry that was – until recently – overwhelmingly white and male. At the forefront of this shift is an increase in the number of female lawyers, a group that comprised just 5 percent of lawyers in Ontario in the early 1970s. Increased participation of Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, and visible minorities has followed as well.22

Many of Canada’s law firms have made significant strides towards developing a more diverse workforce, with several leading the charge.

McCarthy’s LLP Diversity Programs and Support23


Persons with disabilities, women, visible minorities, Indigenous peoples, LGBTQ


  • “Women’s Initiative Network” organizes numerous initiatives to support female employees
  • Firm’s “Pride Network” is responsible for providing networking mentorship opportunities for
  • LGBTQ lawyers and raising awareness of LGBTQ issues across the firm


National Diversity Committee; Chief Diversity and Engagement Officer


  • Female employees 63%
  • Female managers 71%

Dentons Canada LLP Diversity Programs and Support25


Persons with disabilities, women, visible minorities, Indigenous peoples, LGBTQ


  • “Dialogue LGBTQ A Resource Group” provides resources and networking opportunities to LGBTQ employees
  • Recently established “Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Policy and Procedures”
  • “Aboriginal Business Student Initiative,” offered in partnership with Polygon Homes, provides two and a half month paid internship to undergraduate students


Global Committee on Diversity and Inclusion; National Diversity and Inclusion Chairs; Human Resources and Diversity Coordinator


  • Female employees 64.78
  • Female managers 39.74%
  • Visible minority employees 22.88%
  • Visible minority managers 11.33%
  • Indigenous employees 2.49%
  • Indigenous managers 1.32%

1. The most (and least) culturally diverse countries in the world (Pew Research Center)
2. Diversity at Work: Why a diverse workplace matters (hrcouncil.ca)
3. Diversity at Work: Why a diverse workplace matters (hrcouncil.ca)
4. Although the primary focus of this article will be diversity policies specifically pertaining to these aforementioned groups, it is important to recognize that diversity encompasses a wide range of identities and backgrounds, and can consider many additional factors such as geography, language, politics and beliefs.
5. Diversity at Work: Why a diverse workplace matters (hrcouncil.ca)
6. Diversity at Work: Why a diverse workplace matters (hrcouncil.ca)
7. “Tech community facing an ethnic diversity problem” (Globe and Mail)
8. Canada’s Best Diversity Employers 2016
9. Canada’s Best Diversity Employers 2016
10. Canada’s Best Diversity Employers 2016
11. Canada’s Best Diversity Employers 2016
12. www.cba.ca/en/media-room/50-backgrounders-on-banking-issues/120-banks-as-employees-in-canada
13. Women In Canadian, US, And Global Financial Services (Catalyst)
14. Canada’s Best Diversity Employers 2016
15. Canada’s Best Diversity Employers 2016
16. Canada’s Best Diversity Employers 2016
17. Canada’s Best Diversity Employers 2016
18. Canada’s Best Diversity Employers 2016
19. Canada’s Best Diversity Employers 2016
20. Canada’s Best Diversity Employers 2016
21. Canada’s Best Diversity Employers 2016
22. “LSUC report shows major demographic shift in profession” (Canadian Lawyer Magazine)
23. Canada’s Best Diversity Employers 2016
24. Canada’s Best Diversity Employers 2016
25. Canada’s Best Diversity Employers 2016
26. Canada’s Best Diversity Employers 2016

Author Allison Williams studied Life Sciences at Queen’s University, where she served as President of the undergraduate student government. She writes about trends in higher education.

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