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University honoured for diversity initiatives

By Will Sloan

Denise O’Neil Green

Denise O’Neil Green (far left) leads a panel on diversity issues in the Soup and Substance series. Green is Ryerson’s assistant vice-president/vice-provost Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

Just months after being recognized as a Top GTA Employer, Ryerson University has received a 2015 Canada’s Best Diversity Employers award in recognition of its commitment to inclusion.

Awarded annually by the Canada’s Best Diversity Employers competition, the citation honours 65 Canadian employers with exceptional workplace diversity and inclusion programs. The competition evaluates institutions based on the strength of their initiatives/programs aimed at five major employee groups: women, visible minorities, persons with disabilities, aboriginal peoples, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender/transsexual (LGBTQ) peoples. Winners were formally announced in a special magazine published in the March 31 issue of the Globe and Mail.

Chief among Ryerson’s innovations has been the establishment of an Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI), overseen by Denise O’Neil Green, Ryerson’s assistant vice-president/vice-provost for EDI.

“The mix of people who are here helps us not only look forward, but also look at past practices and history, and use that as a way of improving our climate and integrating more of those equity, diversity and inclusion principles,” said Green.

“Sometimes people will make the assumption that just because you have a diverse environment you have an inclusive environment. It’s not one in the same.

It takes intentionality, and that is why Ryerson is a leader. It was very intentional in setting up this [EDI] office, because of the community coming forward and expressing what is needed to move forward.”

The EDI office has hosted a variety of events and initiatives to encourage spaces for dialogue and education on diversity. Since 2013, EDI’s lunchtime Soup and Substance panels, moderated by Green and featuring faculty, staff and students from the Ryerson community, have covered a wide variety of diversity-related topics.

“When we did our very first Soup and Substance on the topic of ‘Arguing the Case for Diversity,’ we were standing-room-only,” said Green. “We’ve engaged people more and more on topics that can be challenging, but people are willing to engage these topics and meet them head-on.”

The university has strongly supported women in the community, notably through the Ryerson Women in Leadership Forum. Founded in 2011, this event brings together women who serve Ryerson in leadership roles to foster networking opportunities and idea exchange. Ryerson raises awareness of violence against women through its December 6 Memorial Committee, which for 25 years has educated the community on issues such as domestic violence, sexual harassment, and date rape.

Ryerson is at the forefront of disability as an academic subject, with the Ryerson School of Disability Studies and its innovative approach to mental health education (Mad Studies). The Mental Health Advisory Committee includes students, faculty and staff committed to supporting the mental wellbeing of Ryerson’s community.Ryerson has also been at the forefront of aboriginal issues. In 2010, Ryerson created the Aboriginal Education Council, which helps the university embed aboriginal content throughout the campus, curriculum and community.

“This designation really speaks to how Ryerson blends its People First philosophy with equity, diversity and inclusion, said Christina Sass-Kortsak, assistant vice-president, Human Resources. “As an employer, we continually work to create an atmosphere where employees not only feel comfortable bringing their whole selves to work, but know they will be valued for their various experiences and knowledge.”

Ryerson has also been proudly progressive on LGBTQ inclusiveness. As part of its 2012 People First employee survey, Ryerson sought feedback from LGBT employees on how to improve the work experience. Ryerson hosted the Pride House Lounge during the 2014 Sochi Olympics, offering a safe space for LGBT community members to watch the games. In 2013, Ryerson made history as the first Canadian university with a gender transitioning program, streamlining the process for transgender employees through the Human Resources department.


To learn more about Ryerson’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion initiatives, visit

To learn more about Canada’s Best Diversity Employers, visit

Denise O’Neil Green will also be a keynote speaker at the 2015 Canadian Association for Human Rights Services in High Education (CAPDHHE) Conference. The event runs May 20-22 at the Eaton Chelsea Hotel (33 Gerrard St. W). Early registration closes April 1.