Minorities feel undervalued

Study shows a ‘concrete’ gap between visible minorities, Caucasians
By Shannon Klie
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 03/28/2007

Once in the workplace, visible minorities with foreign credentials feel they aren’t valued as much as co-workers who have Canadian educational credentials, according to preliminary results from a new study.

This feeling of being valued less is also tied to feeling dissatisfied with their careers and increases the likelihood these professionals will consider looking for career opportunities outside Canada, the study conducted by Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute and Catalyst Canada found.

“This really provides concrete evidence of a gap in levels of satisfaction between visible minority employees and Caucasian employees,” said Wendy Cukier, associate dean of Ryerson’s faculty of business in Toronto.

Nearly one-half (48 per cent) of visible minorities with foreign credentials reported feeling that their employers did not see their educational credentials as being on par with Canadian degrees, compared to 23 per cent of white respondents with foreign credentials.

The preliminary results of

Career Advancement in Corporate Canada: A Focus on Visible Minorities

are based on surveys of 6,051 managers, professionals and executives at large Canadian firms. Fourteen per cent of respondents had foreign educational credentials, of which 79 per cent were visible minorities and 17 per cent were white. Nearly all, 98 per cent, of visible minorities with foreign credentials were born outside of Canada.

Cukier said she hopes the results of such a large study will serve as a wake-up call for employers.

“A lot of people are in denial about systemic discrimination, whether we’re talking about women, visible minorities, internationally educated professionals,” she said. “They want to think everything is fine.”

There has been a lot of attention paid to the barriers new Canadians face in getting jobs commensurate with their qualifications and foreign experience, but little research has focused on the experiences of immigrants and visible minorities in the workforce, said Cukier.

“While it’s extremely important to remove the barriers that new immigrants in particular, and perhaps visible minorities in general, face in getting their first job, it’s equally important that we look at the climate in the workplace and the opportunities for career advancement,” she said.

This study shows similarities between the experiences of working women and visible minorities, said Deborah Gillis, executive director of Catalyst Canada, a Toronto-based research and advisory organization that mostly deals with the advancement of women in the workplace.

“Getting in the door is not the only issue that (women) face. We continue to face challenges as we attempt to move up organizations as well,” she said. “We now have some very solid information that says the issues that are facing visible minorities are not solely focused on recruitment, but they’re also on retention and advancement in organizations.”

The ability to retain employees is becoming increasingly important because there is stiff competition to find and keep the right talent.

“Companies in almost every sector now recognize that the ability to attract and retain highly qualified employees is a huge competitive issue. From my point of view, it’s the single most important competitive issue that companies face,” said Cukier. “Companies that don’t pay adequate attention to diversity in developing and implementing an HR strategy do so at their own peril.”

Not only has the Canadian economy changed, but so have the economies of the countries from which Canada gets its immigrants. Thirty years ago, an immigrant from China or India wasn’t likely to return to his home country because the economies in those countries were struggling. But now, these countries are experiencing their own economic booms and it has become much more attractive for immigrants to return to their home countries if their Canadian experience fails to meet their expectations, said Cukier.

That dissatisfaction is apparent in the study. Nearly one-quarter of respondents with foreign credentials, who were mostly visible minorities and born outside of Canada, said they planned to seek career prospects outside of Canada compared to 12 per cent of Canadian-trained professionals.

The full study, to be released in June, will contain a sample of more than 18,000 managers, professionals and executives. It will also look at employers’ perceptions of initiatives to retain diverse employees and the employees’ perceptions of those same initiatives, said Gillis. Any discrepancies in the perceptions of the two groups will give employers an idea of the areas they need to improve.

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