Workplace inclusion efforts yield ambivalent results, according to survey of Black Canadians

posted on February 16, 2022

By Vanmala Subramaniam, Globe & Mail | February 2, 2022

Canadian employers have made significant progress in understanding systemic racism and creating a more racially equitable work environment, but that cognizance has not necessarily translated into better job opportunities for Black Canadians, according to new research from KPMG Canada.

The consulting giant surveyed just more than 1,000 employees who identify as Black Canadian – of different income levels and across a broad swath of industries – to gauge how promises made by employers to address systemic barriers faced by Black employees actually translated into tangible change at the workplace for them.

The results were mixed.

Approximately 68 per cent of those surveyed said employers had made “good progress” or “some progress” on promises to be more “equitable and inclusive,” but about 50 per cent said they had not experienced better employment prospects.

In fact, approximately four in 10 said nothing much had changed, and one in 10 said things had actually become worse over the past 18 months, since numerous companies committed to tackling systemic barriers faced by Black Canadians in the workplace. Those commitments were spurred by conversations around race and racism in the corporate world in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd in May, 2020.

“While over all, Black Canadians are facing less racism at work, it is still an ugly reality for many,” said Rob Davis, chief inclusion and diversity officer of KPMG in Canada, and chair of the company’s board of directors. He added that the survey results also showed many Black Canadians were concerned the improvement in attitudes and treatment toward racialized employees were driven less by fundamentally changing perceptions of them, but more because many people have been working virtually during the past 18 months.

“They are worried about what will happen when they return to the office,” he said.

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