“Diversity and inclusion” is one of the four values of the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University in Canada, guiding its pursuit of excellence and its goal of ensuring that management education is accessible and every student is empowered to achieve his or her full potential. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. Through their Diversity Institute, the school is involved in numerous projects that are having a significant impact nationally.
To continue our special themed month focused on diversity and inclusion, I spoke with Dr. Wendy Cukier from The Diversity Institute about this initiative, which she founded in 1999, and the impact it is having. To read the first part of this article click here.
What have been some of the challenges?
There are significant ideological barriers in the diversity and inclusion space – many equality seeking groups in the community and on campus do not see business or business schools as their natural partners and allies. Building common goals and frameworks for collaboration can be challenging. Language often matters.
There are also significant gaps between rhetoric and practice regarding diversity in universities, in business and across sectors with serious systemic barriers and discrimination persisting. Work on diversity and inclusion is often viewed as “fluffy” or subjective and does not have the legitimacy or status of work on strategy, finance or technology. This is reflected in the allocation of resources and research funding which tend to privilege Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) and allied disciplines at Universities and even within business schools. Similarly, work focused on practice or using action-oriented research methods tend to be marginalized. Scholars working in this area (and interdisciplinary areas generally) are less likely to get funding and tenure or to publish in top tier journals and are especially disadvantaged at schools which focus on Financial Times rankings.
Another challenge we encounter during our work is that even when organizations express commitment to diversity and have diversity strategies in place, unconscious bias, or the unconscious assumptions based on gender, race, ethnicity, etc., remains as an obstacle. A recent report found that Asian-named applicants applying to high-skilled jobs have a 32.6% lower rate of selection for an interview compared to Anglo-named applicants, even when both groups had equivalent all-Canadian qualifications (Banerjee, Reitz and Oreopolous, 2017). Applicants with some or all foreign qualifications experienced a 45-60% lower rate of interview selection than Anglo-named applicants. This phenomenon has been observed in other jurisdictions as well.
When it comes to data, there is less data on the representation of groups other than women and racialized minorities in leadership roles in part because of issues around disclosure. While race and gender are difficult to conceal, individuals may choose not to disclose other aspects of identity – aboriginal status, disability, sexual orientation, or whether they were born outside of Canada. Our research shows clearly that reported rates of these groups are directly affected by the level of comfort people have disclosing these aspects of their identity rather than levels of representation.
Finally, industry partners often find research in this area challenging – it may produce findings that they do not welcome or which confront sensitivities. Seeking partnerships and funds are challenging as well.
Over the last 6 years the Diversity Institute has attracted more than $5 million in direct funding for projects as well as approximately $10million in indirect funding to the university. In addition, more than 40 organizations have partnered with the Diversity Institute on a range of projects.
This project has also produced concrete changes in policies related to the appointment of diverse judges and members of boards as well as practices in organizations ranging from hospitals to police agencies to banks. The research coming out of the Diversity Institute has also helped to support policy change through invited deputations and government budget consultations. In Canada, the federal government’s proposed Bill C-25 is an important piece of legislation for the first time requiring all large corporations to report on diversity and the Diversity Institute was invited to comment on the legislation as well as the processes related to judicial appointments and many other major policy initiatives.
The Diversity Institute has produced more than 200 publications and has pushed the boundaries of knowledge on new approaches to advancing diversity and inclusion drawing on models of social innovation.
The Diversity Institute led the creation of the Ryerson University Lifeline Syria Challenge which raised $4.7 m and mobilized 1000 volunteers to sponsor and resettle 400 Syrian refugees in one year. (http://www.ryerson.ca/lifelinesyria/)
The Diversity Institute has partnered on or incubated over 10 social innovation initiatives including: Scadding Court Community Centre’s Business Out of the Box (BoB) project, which uses shipping containers to provide affordable commercial spaces to low income and newcomer business owners in downtown Toronto.
What other programmes/initiatives do you have at your school in the area of diversity?
There are multiple curricular programs across Ryerson University that the business school participates in related to diversity and social innovation – too many to mention –as well as courses addressing different dimensions and aspects of diversity.
In 2015, the Diversity Institute created the Global Diversity Exchange bringing together three additional programs from its partner the Maytree Foundation including on that showcases good ideas in immigrant integration, one that works towards ensuring governance boards of non profits and public bodies represent the population they serve, and one that provides businesses with the tools to better recruit, retain and promote skilled immigrants.
In partnership with the Diversity Institute, the seven-year Partnership for Change: The RBC Immigrant, Diversity and Inclusion Project at Ryerson University is also providing a total of $1.75 million in funding towards supporting student and faculty-led projects that address key themes relating to diversity and inclusion
The University itself has an overall EDI plan, which sets overall targets in terms of hiring, as well as for individual schools. Similarly, major initiatives such as Canada Research Chairs sets diversity targets. The University also conducts self-identification and employee engagement surveys to track diversity and inclusion processes and has a number of affinity groups and special programs
What advice would you have for other schools thinking of putting something similar into place?
Diversity and inclusion are very context specific but there is much that can be shared. International Inclusion and Innovation Network (IIIN) is a new initiative by the Diversity Institute intended to promote sharing of best practices, research and innovative approaches across educational institutions, employers, community and social innovation partners. Currently, 100 partners have joined the IIIN from more than 30 academic institutions and 60 organizations across 15 countries and we welcome additional collaborators.
The IIIN will build on our DiversityLeads project to advance evidence and understanding of complex challenges and experiences of the diverse workforce across Canada and globally, including the unique experiences of immigrants and refugees, by developing an international network of interdisciplinary researchers, industry, government, community organizations and social innovators. In addition, we will be putting a greater emphasis on building innovative and practical solutions to promote inclusive labour markets in Canada and globally.
For more information, please contact the Diversity Institute at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For the month of June Primetime will be featuring examples around the Special Focus area Equality and Diversity (SDG 10). Click here to see the rest of the articles in that feature.