Program aims for greater ethnic diversity on boards

posted on February 28, 2015

By Joe Firesen, Globe and Mail | Link to Article

By Joe Firesen, Globe and Mail | Link to Article

One in five Canadians is an immigrant, and in 15 years visible minorities will make up nearly a third of this country’s population. But the unelected bodies that hold sway in a community, the boards of public institutions and agencies, typically have significantly fewer immigrants and visible minorities than might be expected given their share of population.

How to change that situation is a question that has preoccupied Ratna Omidvar, executive director of the Global Diversity Exchange at Ryerson University. Most of the leaders she lobbies say they want to see change, but don’t know how to achieve it.

“I would say the spirit is willing, but often it’s the flesh that’s weak,” Ms. Omidvar said.

This week Ms. Omidvar announced the national launch of a program aimed to break down the barriers of the old-boy network by identifying, training and selecting qualified board candidates who are also either immigrants or members of a visible minority group.

“Public institutions that are created to serve the public good make better decisions for their clients and customers if the boards are diverse,” Ms. Omidvar said. “We are going to close the gap between those who live in these cities and those who serve on these boards.”

The program is called DiverseCity onBoard, and it will expand from Toronto, where it has placed more than 700 candidates on boards over the past several years, to Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa, Hamilton and London. The program works by matching candidates with vacancies. If a board has an opening, the program looks to connect it with a suitable match, someone with the training and expertise they require who might never have come to their attention otherwise.

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