Posted on June 8, 2011

Visible Minorities Still Vastly Under-Represented in Corporate Toronto Leadership

Joe Friesen, The Globe and Mail, June 7, 2011

Corporate Toronto lags significantly behind the public sector in the diversity of its leadership, according to a major report released Tuesday.

Just 4.2 per cent of the members of corporate boards and executive teams in the Greater Toronto Area belong to visible minorities. That’s by far the smallest proportion of any of the six sectors surveyed, according to the report. Nearly 80 per cent of corporate boards and 75 per cent of corporate executive teams have no visible minority representation at all, the report found.

The corporate world compares unfavourably with the public sector, where more than twice as many leadership positions (8.8 per cent) are held by visible minorities. Government boards, agencies and commissions have the highest proportion of visible minority leadership at 22 per cent.

The research was conducted by the Diversity Institute at Ryerson University, led by professor Wendy Cukier and supported by the Maytree foundation. They examined 3,300 people in leadership positions across the public, corporate, voluntary, education and legal sectors, as well as the combined group of agencies, boards and commissions.

The report concludes that “subtle but positive” progress has been made over the three years since the first DiverseCity leadership report in 2009. Overall the proportion of visible minority leaders has increased by roughly 0.5 percentage points per year since the survey began, to 14.5 per cent in 2011.

The greatest change has been driven at the ballot box. The diversity of elected officials jumped to just less than 20 per cent in 2011, up from 16 per cent in 2009. City council is up 30 per cent.

In the education sector, more than two thirds of GTA school boards and more than 80 per cent of college and university boards of governors have at least 20 per cent visible minority representation.

Legal leaders do not reflect the community they serve, the report found. In the legal profession, which was surveyed for the first time in this year’s edition, just 6.8 per cent of those in leadership positions belong to visible minorities. It was higher in governing bodies, such as law societies or law schools, and lower at the partner level of law firms.

Lowest of all, though, is among Crown and deputy Crown attorneys, where there wasn’t a single visible minority among the 14 positions included in the survey.

Just 6.6 per cent of partners in large GTA law firms are visible minorities. Some firms are clearly more friendly to diversity than others, though, as the range goes from a low of 0.9 per cent to a high of 10.8 per cent.

The survey found that a large number of Justices of the Peace are visible minority, (more than 44 per cent) but Justices of the Peace need not be lawyers. Still, only 14.4 per cent of lawyers in the Toronto census metropolitan area are visible minorities, even though they make up nearly 50 per cent of the city’s population. Slightly more than 4 per cent of judges on the Ontario Court of Appeal and the Superior Court of Justice are visible minorities. The proportion is much higher at the Ontario Court of Justice level, where 10 of 63 judges surveyed, or 15.9 per cent, are visible minority.

“Some organizations and firms are working to promote greater diversity but more remains to be done,” the report said. “Ultimately, the generally low rates of visible minority representation among legal sector leaders suggest that the legal profession and its institutions need to continue to promote the advancement of visible minorities in leadership roles.”

The report states that setting targets, measuring results, making diversity a strategic priority and nurturing the talent of young people of diverse backgrounds will improve equity across all sectors.