Mayor’s Task Force on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

Suburbs

The Mayor’s Task Force on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, which was created in late 2019, consists of approximately 45 members of the community and City staff who are working together to create an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion strategy for the City of Kitchener. That strategy will make recommendations to Kitchener City Council in four broad areas:

  1. Broadening community engagement in municipal decision-making – particularly for people who are traditionally under-represented
  2. Improving equitable municipal service delivery to Kitchener’s diverse population
  3. Encouraging, maintaining and promoting a more inclusive workplace and diverse workforce at the City of Kitchener for both employees and volunteers
  4. Celebrating the full diversity of the Kitchener community

The work of the Task Force will be carried out in several phases:

 Phase 1: Launch
Oct. 2019-Dec. 2019 

This phase focused on relationship building and priority setting. During this time, members of the Task Force worked together to determine areas of focus and discussed approaches to engage with the larger community. 

 Phase 2: Engage
Jan.-July 2020

At this stage, the Task Force is focused on community input, research and corporate engagement to inform the development of a series of recommendations that will be included in the city’s Corporate Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy.

Task Force members have assembled into working groups focused on several key areas including:

  • Community Engagement
  • Equity and inclusion in the workplace
  • Policy development and review
  • Learning and unlearning (training)
  • Data collection and analysis
Phase 3: Report 
Sept.-Dec. 2020

Using input generated from extensive community consultation and engagement, the Task Force will work together to develop a Corporate Equity, Diversity and Engagement Strategy. The strategy focused on actionable change, will include a budget, implementation strategy, timeline, key milestones, and recommendations for sustainability and will be presented to Council by the end of 2020.  

Workforce Census

In June of 2019, a workforce census survey, consisting of eight demographic questions, was circulated to 2,208 staff at the City of Kitchener as part of a larger Employee Culture Survey. The survey, which received an 80 per cent response rate, was administered by an external, third-party company. This is the first time that these types of demographic questions were asked of City of Kitchener staff.

The demographic information collected will be used by the Mayor’s Task Force for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion to identify potential systemic barriers, prioritize areas for focus and action, and measure future initiatives by the City to create a more inclusive workforce, and workplace.

Learn more:

FAQs

Why is the City collecting demographic information from staff?
Collecting and reporting demographic data is an essential first step to understanding how representative our staff are of the community we serve, and is considered a best practice in identifying systemic barriers and opportunities to make a workplace more inclusive. It is something other organizations have been doing for quite some time now. In fact, the Ontario Human Rights Commission encourages organizations like ours to collect this type of demographic data. By collecting this data we now have a baseline of information that will help identify potential systemic barriers some of our current employees and segments of the overall population are facing, and prioritize areas for further focus and action.
Is it legal to ask employees these questions?
Yes. The Ontario Human Rights Commission encourages organizations like ours to collect this type of demographic data in the workplace in order to promote equity and inclusion, and protect human rights as identified under the Ontario Human Rights Code.
Do other organizations collect this kind of data?
Yes. Ever since the Ontario Human Rights Commission began to recommend collecting demographic data in the workplace, it has become an increasingly established practice across Ontario amongst school boards, police services, municipalities, universities, health service providers and businesses.
Is the City of Kitchener workforce less diverse than other organizations? 
While we haven’t compared ourselves to other organizations, we know that a lack of diverse representation within the workforce is an issue facing many public and private sector organizations. We are determined to take meaningful action and make real improvements – which is why we conducted our workforce census, launched the Mayor’s Task Force on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, and are releasing the census results to the community.
Do the results mean that City employees are doing a bad job?
No. These results are in no way a statement about the quality of our current employees, or their dedication to public service. The results are a statement about the need for the City to look very closely at our policies, procedures and practices from an equity-informed perspective to ensure all residents have equal access to employment at the City. 
Was it mandatory for staff to answer the workforce census questions?
No. Staff participation was completely voluntary.
What if an employee didn’t want to answer one of the eight workforce census questions?
Each workforce census question gave staff the opportunity to select “prefer not to answer.” None of the questions were mandatory.
How do staff know their individual responses are confidential?
The workforce census was conducted by an external third-party survey provider. No one at the City of Kitchener has access to individual staff responses. 
What is the City going to do about the results of the workforce census?
We know we must do better to be fully reflective of the community we serve and we are determined to take meaningful action and make real improvements – but we can’t do it alone. We’re going to be deliberate in analyzing data, researching solutions and collaborating with staff and members of the community from whom we have much to learn. This is exactly why we launched the Mayor’s Task Force on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion last year. One of the four main elements of the Task Force’s mandate is to explore how to best encourage, maintain and promote an inclusive workplace and workforce representative of the population we serve.
What is the Mayor’s Task Force on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion?
The Mayor’s Task Force on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, which was created in late 2019, consists of approximately 45 members of the community and City staff who are working together to create an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion strategy for the City of Kitchener. That strategy will make recommendations to Kitchener City Council in four broad areas:

 

  1. Broadening community engagement in municipal decision-making – particularly for people who are traditionally under-represented
  2. Improving equitable municipal service delivery to Kitchener’s diverse population
  3. Encouraging, maintaining and promoting a more inclusive workplace and diverse workforce at the City of Kitchener for both employees and volunteers
  4. Celebrating the full diversity of the Kitchener community

How will members of the community be involved in the work of the Task Force?

Later this year the Task Force will be undertaking a significant effort to engage many members of our community in their work – especially those who have been traditionally underrepresented or excluded from these engagement processes.

How will City of Kitchener staff be involved when changes are made?

City of Kitchener staff have been involved with the Mayor’s Task Force on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion from the beginning, as they make up one-third of the Task Force membership. As potential recommendations are developed by the Task Force, staff members will be consulted and included in ongoing conversations about proposed changes and implementation strategies. 

Why does having a diverse and inclusive workplace matter?

The City of Kitchener is a public sector organization with a responsibility to serve everyone in our increasingly diverse community. When our employees bring with them a broad diversity of lived experiences and perspectives, we are better positioned to make decisions that respond to the needs of everyone in our community. Research shows that increasing diversity and inclusion in the workplace can lead to an increase in mental health and wellbeing for all employees, as well as increased employee satisfaction, retention and productivity.
Is the City going to start to implement a quota system in their hiring practices?
No. Implementing a quota system where targets are set for hiring a specific number of under-represented people has proven to be an ineffective way of tackling issues of equity and inclusion in the workplace. Instead, by collecting this workforce census data we now have a baseline of information we can use to identify systemic barriers that current and future employees face, prioritize areas for focus and action, and measure the effectiveness of future equity-informed initiatives. 
What is a “systemic barrier”?

Systemic barriers are policies, procedures or practices that unfairly discriminate and prevent individuals from participating fully in a situation (eg. getting a job or promotion). Systemic barriers often stem from unfounded unconscious biases, stereotypes or assumptions about particular people, whether intentional or not. 

For example, when reviewing resumes, women may be excluded from hiring pools in traditionally male-dominated fields due to assumptions that women can’t do the job, and thus they are never selected for an interview. The same may be true for visible minorities or immigrants who have names that do not sound familiar to a white, Canadian-born employer, and therefore assumptions may be made about the individuals’ ability to do the job, their ability to speak English or their educational credentials, and thus may never be selected for interviews.

Once people are hired into organizations, systemic barriers can continue within the workplace that may prevent employees from fully participating in the workplace and/or being overlooked for promotion or advancement opportunities.

Why don’t you just focus on hiring the best person for the job?

We completely agree we should be focused on hiring the best person for the job. That’s why we want to eliminate systemic barriers to employment to ensure everyone has an opportunity to be a part of the recruitment, hiring and promotion process regardless of their race, gender, age, sexual orientation or country of birth.

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