Isn’t asking me to self-identify discriminatory?
On occasion, we have heard feedback from members of the community who wonder if asking someone to self-identify is discriminatory, in that it separates certain parts of our population. We recognize that the act of identifying can be uncomfortable for a variety of reasons, but as each of the perspectives below show us, self-identification is not discriminatory, and in fact it is a necessary and important step to creating a robust and inclusive workforce.
Discrimination based on race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, marital status, family status, disability or the receipt of public assistance is prohibited under the external,Ontario Human Rights Code (OHRC).
That being said, the law does permit and encourage special programs such as employment equity programs for many reasons. Specifically, Section 14(1) of the OHRC states,
“A right […] is not infringed by the implementation of a special program designed to relieve hardship or economic disadvantage or to assist disadvantaged persons or groups to achieve or attempt to achieve equal opportunity.”
We know that historic discrimination and disadvantage has created persistent and systemic barriers for members of equity groups. These barriers are not always obvious or intentional and so it is not easy to identify and remove them. They may be ingrained in policies, organizational culture and even within our unconscious minds.
The PDF fileOntario Human Rights Commission guide (PDF) on special programs provides the following example of an initiative designed to address representation and workforce participation that would be based, in part, on good employment equity data:
Example: A police service recognizes that it does not look like the racially diverse community it serves. Most of its higher ranking officers are from non-racialized groups. If people from racialized groups (communities facing racism) join the service, they are less likely to be promoted and more likely to quit early on. The service relies on recruits to find more experienced officers to mentor them, which helps them move up in the ranks. However, people from racialized groups have trouble finding mentors. The service creates a special program to help officers from racialized groups take part in formal mentorship opportunities.
While this situation wouldn’t apply to Ryerson directly, it’s a good example of how an employer might assess their current employment structure and determine plans and strategies to address any barriers. Without collecting the data necessary, we can’t know how best to focus our equity efforts.
Ryerson provides a gateway to career opportunities and can provide individuals from disadvantaged groups improved access to education. Most Canadian universities offer scholarships and other awards specifically targeted to women, visible minorities, Aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities, and/or 2SLGBTQ+ students, as well as other targeted awards.
These scholarships and awards are provided based on data about under-representation in higher education. For example, persons with disabilities are under-represented in post-secondary education and specific programs are designed to support participation of persons with disabilities in higher education.
Similarly, equity data concerning employees provides evidence and rationale needed to effectively address disadvantages at the university faced by members of these groups. In a university setting, diversity in the workforce (particularly in the faculty) has been shown to improve the representation and success of students from these groups.
For more information about what 2SLGBTQ+ means, visit our Frequently Asked Questions.