I recently became a citizen of Canada. During my first few days in Canada, I found many reasons to be grateful to be here. In pursuit of better economic and academic prospects, I left a blossoming career in communications and public relations in my home country of Nigeria and traveled over 7000 miles to Canada to pursue my post-secondary education. My adopted community in Victoria, British Columbia, afforded me a life-changing opportunity to connect, engage and learn about “inclusivity” and what it means for me as a Black woman in Canada. I learned through my own experience as an international student and through the lived realities of others who, like me, came to Canada as international students, immigrants, or refugees seeking opportunities for self-actualization.
These collective experiences have formed the basis for the work we do at The Inclusion Project, in leading change through research, public engagement, and inclusive leadership. Our work in employment equity seeks to engage organizations and key stakeholders in upholding equitable practices for equity-deserving groups across Canada. We do this by developing and strengthening accountability frameworks, roadmaps, and benchmarks for best-in-class practices in intersectional Racial Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (REDI+). Through our audit, assessment, and advisory services, we serve some of Canada’s leading institutions and stakeholders across public and private sectors on standard practices for employment equity.
In my day-to-day role, I have had many opportunities to learn, educate, and advise many organizations and stakeholders on inclusivity and what it means to me as a Black woman in Canada. The reality for many like me is that these opportunities do not abound. For many Black women, there are fewer opportunities for self-actualization through economic or social access, and in many cases, representation in policy or leadership positions. Sometimes, numbers tell the story:
- Despite growth in Labour Market Availability, in 2016, less than 10% of Black Canadian professional candidates at a Canadian University were hired for middle-management positions and above. Instead, Black hires were overrepresented among service positions, and female candidates were overrepresented in administrative positions.
- In 2016, approximately 70% of Black women and 63.6% of Black men had at least post- secondary or Apprenticeship or trades certificate or diploma (StatsCan). About 1 in every 7 working women in the top 1% belonged to a visible minority group, compared with 1 in 5 in the working population (StatsCan).
- A 2021 study by the Diversity Institute shows that the unemployment rate for persons who identify as non-Indigenous and non-visible minority was 9.3%. The rates of unemployment were much higher for those who identify as South Asian (17.8%), Arab (17.3%), Black (16.8%), Southeast Asian (16.5%), Latin American (16%), Chinese (14%), and Filipino (13.2%).
While numbers do not capture all of the multi-layered, overlapping and intersectional experiences of Black people in Canada, it starts to show us where we are as a society and if we follow the prompt of the data, it also tells us what we need to do to move the needle on racial equity. To do so, we must begin by collecting and analyzing race-based disaggregated data and engaging with lived experience and expertise to help chart the course for equity in our policies, process and practices.
I hope that as a society we will find some shared imperatives to do better to respond to the needs of our own First Peoples, and as well, Black, Asian, and all other equity-deserving groups in Canada. As we work toward equity, my hope is that it will be equity for all.
Canada’s Oceans sector should not be left behind in catching up to the change that is already on the horizon. To move forward, we will need to create and strengthen opportunities for cross-sector collaborations and partnerships.
Ruth Mojeed Ramirez is the Chief Equity Officer of The Inclusion Project. She brings extensive lived experience and grounded expertise to her work in racial equity, diversity and inclusion. Her research, engagement and solutions design focus on an intersectional and inter-generational approach to address complex issues of race, decolonization and gender equity. She leads organizational REDI strategy development and coaching among multi-level stakeholders in public and private sectors. You can read about some of her work through the Employment Equity Partnership & the Racial Equity, Diversity & Inclusion.