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Confronting racism at work

December 20, 2020


CivicAction and Boston Consulting Group (BCG) have released a report, “The Pervasive Reality of Anti-Black Racism in Canada,” which compiles available data on anti-Black racism in Canada across four full lifecycle areas: education, employment, healthcare, and policing.

Insights in the report are further proofpoints to the depth of anti-Black racism in Canada. The report calls on Canadian companies, governments and individuals to deepen their commitment and accountability to address anti-Black racism.

The report also highlights examples of promising practices that could have an impact here in Canada.

With regards to employment, the report provides facts on anti-Black racism in the workplace and shows how it inhibits the hiring and advancement of Black employees.


For example, Black Canadians are 1.5 times more likely to be unemployed than non-minority Canadians. Once in the workforce, Black workers are four times as likely as White workers to report experiencing racial discrimination in major decisions at workplaces in Canada.

Impacts of COVID-19

Many organizations have been paying much needed attention to anti-Black racism this year, while also dealing with the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But according to Leslie Woo, CEO of CivicAction, changing the way we hire, retain and engage Black and racialized employees is crucial to building a more inclusive economy.

“We need organizations and HR leaders to convert public commitments or good intentions into tangible actions to ensure a more equitable recovery,” said Woo.

This change needs to happen at all levels, especially at the entry-level with youth in Canada experiencing an unemployment rate of 17.4 per cent in November. This is more than 1.5x the rate for January.

One way forward for employers is CivicAction’s HireNext, a set of free, made-in-Canada tools to make sourcing, screening, and onboarding for entry-level candidates more inclusive.

Organizations can take a brief online questionnaire to assess their HR practices and receive three customized recommendations on how to better attract and retain diverse, young talent.

Dean Delpeache, senior talent acquisition manager at Fiix Software, has found that “diverse youth bring a certain type of creativity and vision to our business, and that contributes to improving our bottom line.”

Delpeache credits CivicAction’s HireNext assessment with helping Fiix software to implement more inclusive hiring practices: “HireNext really helped us bring youth into our organization and opened channels for communicating and working with diverse young people.”

Here are some promising practices for more inclusive hiring practices at crucial stages of the hiring process:

  • During the screening and selection phase, having diverse interview panels has been shown to help with hiring more diverse talent. For instance, Intel required that every interview panel include at least two women and/or members of minority groups — increasing the share of women and minorities hired by 13 per cent in just two years.
  • Rightsizing the credentials required can also make a big impact. A U.K. consulting firm replaced education requirements with an in-house assessment program for applicants in 2015. As a result, 18 per cent of the 2016 intake class would have been ineligible to apply before.
  • Creating an effective and inclusive onboarding experience and retention strategies for those new hires are crucial with 22 per cent of turnover occurring within the first month and a half. Retention efforts can be targeted.
    For example, Black employees are 5x more likely than White employees to describe sponsorship (someone who is invested and helps in career advancement) as “the most effective program for racial/ethnic diversity and inclusion” that their company could put in place. Yet, according to a 2019 survey, only 11 per cent of Canadians say their company has a formal sponsorship program.

These are just some examples of promising practices.

Black communities in Canada are not a monolith and the report by CivicAction and BCG, points to the need for much more race-based data collection.

Employers can make more tailored interventions with disaggregated race-based data on their workforce.

To learn more about HireNext and to get tailored recommendations on how to make your organization’s entry-level hiring practices more inclusive, take the free HireNext assessment here.

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