"Just be yourself" not viewed a viable option
by many visible minorities in the workplace
New Catalyst study findings reveal workplace fit, negative
stereotyping and perceptions of leadership qualities are barriers
to career advancement for visible minorities
Toronto, (June 25, 2008) — Findings in a study
examining workplace fit and stereotyping in corporate Canada
revealed that many visible minority managers, professionals
and executives believe that in order to succeed at work, they
need to "Canadianize" themselves. Downplaying their
ethnicity and speaking English or French without an identifiable
accent are viewed as measures that must be taken if they want
to get ahead.
In this fourth report of a series on visible minorities in
corporate Canada, titled Career Advancement in Corporate
Canada: A Focus on Visible Minorities in Canada ~ Workplace
Fit and Stereotyping, Catalyst identifies issues that
affect visible minority career advancement, specifically the
crucial aspects of how this group fits into the work environment,
whether and to what extent they experience stereotyping, and
how others perceive them as leaders.
The Catalyst study also stresses the fact that given an increasing
globally competitive marketplace, visible minorities will
be critical to the performance of Canadian companies and firms
in years to come. The report provides recommendations on how
Canada's largest businesses can create inclusive environments
in which visible minorities can be successful and organizations
can reap the full benefits of diversity.
"As Canadians, we celebrate all that diversity brings
to our country and communities", said Deborah Gills,
Vice President, North America, Catalyst. "But when the
message delivered to visible minorities working in our largest
businesses is that they must blend in to get ahead, the potential
to fully leverage diversity as a source of competitive advantage
is being compromised."
Key findings from the study include:
- Advancement for visible minorities may necessitate their
downplaying aspects of their cultural background, such as
having an identifiable accent, that does not "fit"
the prevailing image of leaders in their organizations.
- Some East Asians and South Asians who felt they understood
Canadian idioms and were familiar with Canadian culture,
particularly those whose families had been in Canada for
generations, expressed comfort with how they fit within
Canadian business organizations. However, other visible
minorities stated that their chances of acceptance and promotion
at work are tied to how "Canadianized" they are.
- East Asians reported being stereotyped as "hard working
but not sociable" while South Asians reported being
considered "outsiders" and "foreigners"
in spite of the length of time they had spent in Canada.
- Blacks faced a dramatic difference in workplace challenges
as compared to their South and East Asian colleagues. More
negative stereotyping and an extremely limited number of
similar role models combined to create a sense of isolation
and limited opportunities for black managers, professional
- In multicultural workplaces, "political correctness"
can impede advancement of visible minorities to the extent
that it makes it difficult for organizational members to
address arising tensions.
- While many organizations are committed to building inclusive
work environments, imperfect execution of diversity programs
can hinder career advancement for visible minority managers,
professionals and executives. An added barrier is that white/Caucasians
are more likely to believe that diversity efforts are successful
than are Blacks or Asians.
"The market has diversified extensively in the last
five years," said Zabeen Hirji, Chief Human Resources
Officer at RBC, the lead sponsor of the study, "And we've
understood that to serve the market, we need to hire the market.
Companies that put well executed talent management systems
in place to leverage the capabilities of diverse employees
are more likely to have a dynamic and high performing work
environment. This is a sound business model that is not only
appreciated within organizations and by clients, but by stakeholders
who understand the importance of attracting the best employees.
The Catalyst study shows that there is still a great deal
of work to be done. Achieving full diversity is a journey
that requires ongoing dialogue and focus inside organizations
and across our communities."
To help Canadian organizations fully leverage the diversity
and talent of their visible minority employees, Catalyst recommends:
- Organizations create inclusive environments where visible
minorities can spend less time focused on overcoming stereotypes
and more time on contributing to organizational performance.
Senior leaders can develop inclusive workplaces by building
a strong business case, addressing the concerns of majority
groups, and ensuring that leadership competencies are clear
and allow for a variety of styles.
- Recognize that negative stereotyping exists in the workplace
and address it. Avoid political correctness or politeness
as a barrier to dealing with this problem.
- Visible minorities should aim to familiarize themselves
with their organizations and be prepared to navigate less-than-perfect
workplace environments. Changing an organization is a long-term
activity, and realistically many visible minority managers,
professionals and executives will find themselves employed
in business organizations that are less than fully inclusive.
RBC is the study's lead sponsor. Deloitte and Touche LLP
and IBM Canada are the participating sponsors. The Ontario
Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration is the supporting
To review the Catalyst study and a complete account of recommendations,
please visit www.catalyst.org.
Founded in 1962, Catalyst is the leading nonprofit membership
organization working globally with businesses and the professions
to build inclusive workplaces and expand opportunities for
women and business. With offices in the United States, Canada,
and Europe, and the support of more than 370 member organizations,
Catalyst is the premier resource for research, information,
and trusted advice about women at work. Catalyst annually
honors exemplary organizational initiatives that promote women's
advancement with the Catalyst Award.
For more information contact:
Building Blocks Communications
Work: (416) 588-8514
Cell: (416) 857-9401
Direct: (646) 388-7744
Work: (212) 514-7600 x 333