'Sunshine' approach to diversity in federal public service working, study says
Women now make up 54.4 per cent of federal government staff, with visible minorities and Indigenous people also on the rise proportionally.
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An employment equity regimen that relies on public disclosure rather than a mandatory quota system seems to have improved representation from women, visible minorities and Indigenous people in the public service, according to a new study.
Women now make up 54.4 per cent of federal government employees while visible minorities and Indigenous people account for 14.5 per cent and 5.2 per cent of the workforce, respectively, according to the report by the Institute for Research on Public Policy.
The latest government statistics say 50.4 per cent of Canada’s population are women, 20 per cent are visible minorities, and four per cent are Indigenous. The Canadian government defines visible minorities as non-white people other than Indigenous people.
Under the Employment Equity Act, the federal government is obligated to report annually on diversity within the government and in the federally-regulated private sector.
The growth has been steady for both women and Indigenous people, who started at 46.1 per cent and two per cent respectively in 1993 when data became available, said report author Andrew Griffith.
And the almost quadrupling of representation for visible minorities from a mere 3.8 per cent in 1993 was remarkable, he noted.
“The transparency, sunshine-law approach and the politics of shame has shifted the representation of public services by a remarkable extent,” said Griffith, a retired director-general with the Immigration Department and now an independent policy analyst specializing multiculturalism and diversity.
“The organic and uncontroversial approach may have worked better than a quota system that would have created more resistance and tension.”
Based on data from the Treasury Board and Privy Council, Griffith also examined the diversity of public service management at each of the five executive levels, plus the deputy minister position.
Griffith’s study, a snapshot of March 2016, looked at 182,000 public servants including 5,302 executives classified from levels one to five in the management classification scheme, plus 70 deputy ministers.
Women made up 47.3 per cent of executive posts in 2016, compared to just 25.8 per cent in 2002 when officials began collecting gender data on management.
Last year, about one in 10 managers consisted of a person of colour, from just one out of 20 a decade ago when the collection of racial data started. The representation of Indigenous executives, however, was modest, rising to 3.7 per cent in 2016 from three per cent in 2005.
“There were gaps in the representation. That’s troubling,” said Robyn Benson, president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, which represents roughly 110,000 federal government employees.
“Some larger departments have a large pool (of diverse candidates) to choose from for promotion, but they are not doing as well as they should be doing.”
Benson said the Employment Equity Act has not been reviewed for 15 years and the union has been pushing hard for one to identify shortfalls. She would also like to see data on people with disabilities in the public service, which wasn’t part of the study.
“The Act needs stronger accountability,” she said. “If you sit in a room and see women, racialized and Indigenous people, and people with disabilities as workers and look to the managers who don’t reflect them, that’s just wrong.”
According to the study, across the public service 65 per cent of women are now under 50 years of age, compared with 60.8 per cent of men. Visible minorities are significantly younger: almost three-quarters (72.1 per cent) are under 50. Among Indigenous public servants, 64.2 per cent are under 50.
Female executives are almost evenly split between under and over 50; 53.4 per cent of male executives are over 50. Visible minorities are the youngest among executives, with 57.5 per cent under 50 while Indigenous executives are the next youngest, at 54.4 per cent under 50.
The federal departments with the highest female representation in their leadership were Public Health Agency of Canada (63 per cent); Justice Canada (61.1 per cent); Canada School of Public Service (58.1 per cent) and Veteran Affairs Canada (57.7 per cent). By contrast, Finance Canada and National Defence rank at the bottom, at 36.2 per cent and 35.8 per cent respectively.
For visible minorities, they fare best in leadership at Shared Services Canada (21.8 per cent); Health Canada (13 per cent); Immigration (12.6 per cent); Global Affairs (11.5 per cent) and the Canada Border Services Agency (11.4 per cent). However, they don’t do as well at Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada; Public Health Agency of Canada; Canadian Heritage and Statistics Canada — all below seven per cent.
Indigenous executives make up almost one in five leadership positions at Indigenous Affairs, 7.6 per cent at Correctional Service and 6.5 per cent at Health Canada, but under three per cent at Public Services and Procurement Canada; Justice; and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada.
“The data presents the departments an opportunity to look at how they compare to each other, especially for the outliers who are low in diversity representation,” said Griffith.
“They need to ask what they could do to improve the representation of these groups with their hiring and promotion practices.”