Diverse workplaces bring many benefits

New research demonstrates that having a more ethnically diverse workforce isn’t just important for social justice – it’s also good for the economy.

The report, published jointly by the Centre for International Governance Innovation and the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, found that a diverse workforce is directly connected to increased productivity and revenues.

Diversity Dividend: Canada’s Global Advantage found that on average, a one per cent increase in ethnocultural diversity in the workforce is associated with a 2.4 per cent increase in revenues and a 0.5 per cent increase in productivity. The impact is strongest in information and cultural industries, communications and utilities, as well as business services. There was a positive impact in all sectors except basic resource processing. Information and cultural industries have an average 6.2 per cent increase in revenues for every percentage increase in ethnocultural diversity, while for education and health the revenue boost is one per cent.

There’s also a strong benefit to having greater gender equality in the workplace. For every one per cent increase in gender diversity, there’s an average 3.5 per cent increase in revenues and a 0.7 per cent increase in productivity, with gains in all sectors.

The report finds organizations that embrace diversity tend to be better positioned to handle change, experience reduced workplace conflict, have staff with a greater variety of skills and experiences, are more innovative and outward looking, and are more likely to gain a reputation as socially responsible. More diverse organizations are less likely to engage in narrow groupthink from culturally similar coworkers, and more likely to explore new approaches to a problem or issue.

Canada’s population has become much more diverse. At over 20 per cent, we have the largest foreign-born population of any G7 country. But this growing diversity still isn’t reflected sufficiently in many workforces, particularly in higher skilled and management areas, including in the public sector.

Many of our workplaces do not reflect the diversity of the communities we live in. Groups that are traditionally underrepresented include women, workers of colour, Indigenous workers, workers with disabilities, and LGBTTQI workers. These workers also tend to be concentrated in lower paid, insecure and more hazardous jobs.

Although immigrants have higher education levels than the Canadian average, they and racialized workers are over-represented in low-pay occupations where jobs are less secure. This is particularly pronounced in health care and long-term care, where racialized workers are over-represented as personal support workers, porters and laundry aides.

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