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Ryerson’s workforce: where women stand

Photo: Ryerson staff members


Ryerson University’s effectiveness at including diverse groups of women in its workforce is examined in a new report published by the university.

Our Community, Our Diversity: 2015 and 2016 Employee Diversity Self-ID Report reveals the extent to which Ryerson employs faculty and staff from a variety of identified equity groups. Published by the Office of the Vice-President, Equity and Community Inclusion (OVPECI) and based on employees’ responses to the Diversity Self-ID, it shows how Ryerson has progressed in its workplace inclusion goals from the report’s launch in 2014 through to 2016. The report will be the focus of Ryerson’s next Soup and Substance, a series of moderated discussions on diversity-related topics hosted by OVPECI.

For the first time, the report includes a special focus on women and intersections that provides detailed data on the following four groups:

  • racialized women
  • Aboriginal women
  • women with disabilities
  • 2SLGBTQ+ women

“Groups like women are discussed in a homogenous way, but of course, women are as diverse as any other group,” says Tamar Myers, OVPECI’s Director of Strategic Planning, Assessment and Special Projects. “By showing the representation of women employees whose identities intersect with other equity groups, we can better understand Ryerson’s strengths in workplace diversity and inclusion, and where we need to make improvements to recruit and retain exceptional diverse women.”

Understanding the gaps

Photo: Jesmen Mendoza

The report compares the representation of each intersectional group between full-time faculty and students, and between staff and the population in the GTA (according to the 2011 National Household Survey) or Ontario. The report also breaks down the representation at different levels of leadership and in different employee groups.

Racialized women employees make up only 9% of full-time faculty compared with 33% of students, which equals a 24% gap. Another gap exists in the representation among women leaders. Racialized women represent 25% of women leaders at Ryerson, while racialized women represent almost half of the population of women in the GTA.

Other gaps exist between the women employees who identify as persons with disabilities: they constitute 3% of Ryerson staff – one third of representation of persons with disabilities in the province’s population at 9%. Women who identify as 2SLGBTQ+ make up 3% of Ryerson staff – by comparison, they make up 5% of part-time and casual employees.

According to Jesmen Mendoza, a psychologist in the Centre for Student Development and Counselling, these gaps reinforce systemic barriers and stereotypes. If women students with intersecting identities don’t see themselves reflected in the faculty, “it doesn’t provide hope that they can achieve these positions of knowledge and social importance,” he says.

More broadly, Mendoza says a diverse university workforce that adequately represents different intersecting equity groups can create a more inclusive and nurturing environment for students.

“Universities are more than just education factories, they are communities. Having an academic workforce that reflects the student body creates a sense of belonging, and that creates better learning, because students are more likely to participate in the university,” he says.

Aboriginal women

Photo: Tracey King

The data on Aboriginal women employees at Ryerson is influenced by complex factors. On the surface, we see no large gaps because the total numbers are quite small -- whether looking at students, staff or full-time faculty.  What contributes to the low numbers are the broader social issues impacting Indigenous women, such as underemployment. The 2011 Toronto Aboriginal Research Project showed that only 55% of Aboriginal women are employed full time.

Tracey King, Ryerson’s Aboriginal Human Resources Consultant, says Ryerson needs to adjust its recruitment and retention practices to take into account the systemic barriers affecting the entry of Aboriginal women into the workforce. This partly means hiring managers should look beyond academic credentials and consider the specialized cultural knowledge and lived experiences of Aboriginal women job candidates.

“The tendency at universities is to hire those with formal qualifications, like university degrees. But the informal education and traditional teachings these women have received gives them a unique perspective that can be an asset on the job,” King stays. “Setting up an inclusive workplace climate will have a positive ripple effect on Aboriginal students, their families and the broader community.”


Find out more about the report and how to use the latest data to make changes across the campus at our next Soup and Substance, taking place Sept. 18, 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. at Podium Room 250.