The Diverse Leadership Deficit

Who is missing from the conversation among leaders?


A recent report from the DiverseCity project of the Toronto City Summit Alliance has (once again) raised concerns about the lack of racial diversity in the senior leadership ranks in one of the most multicultural and multiracial regions in the world. A report last year raised similiar concerns.  

Researchers analyzed 3,348 leaders in areas of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) with the highest number of non-whites (visible minorities). The study included elected officials, members of public agencies, boards and commissions, as well as voluntary and private corporations. 

The study found that visible minorities are under-represented in the senior ranks of leadership; just 14 per cent. Nearly half of all Torontonians  (49.5 per cent) identify themselves as “visible minorities.”  It is projected that by 2031, visible minorities will be the majority (63 per cent) of the population. 

The numbers are even more dismal in the media. Out of a total of 289 senior leaders identified in the print and broadcast media, a mere 4.8 per cent were visible minorities. (More on that later). 

As remarkable as the numbers are, they should not come as a surprise. In a city that boasts “Diversity Our Strength” there has been scant efforts to captilize on this “strength” in a strategic and sustainable way. 

Despite numerous reports about the economic benefits of leveraging diversity — the most powerful and significant being a report by the Royal Bank of Canada — the deficit in diverse leadership remains. 

The results of the media analysis is of even greater concern. 

Toronto is among the most competitive media market in North America, yet visible minorites are grossly under-represented in positions of leadership as well as in the newsrooms of newspapers and broadcasters. 

A content analysis of news also found under-representation of non-whites in the news media. Predictably, the sports section had the highest percentage of photographs of visible minorities (30.3 per cent). The business section had the lowest (12.8 per cent).  Visible minorities were rarely shown in a leadership conext. 

Ironically, the Globe and Mail newspaper editorialized that the DiverseCity report is “a black eye for Canada.” It goes on to say “if the initiative and talent of newcomers, most of whom are better educated than native-born Canadians are not rewarded, then they are robbed — and Canada is, too”. Interestingly, the Globe and Mail is silent on the lack of diversity in the media. 

The only bright news in all of this is that some financial institutions and CBC Radio’s Metro Morning program stand out as best practices that should be emulated. 

The importance of role models for younger (and increasingly) diverse Canadians cannot be ignored. Individuals who see others like themselves in positions of authority in business and other crucial institutions, can only be encouraged to strive for greater accomplishments and ultimately to become more engaged in the work of building a more civil and inclusive society.

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Showing 2 comments
  • Alison Konrad

    This report should serve as a wake-up call for those who believe that diversity in leadereship is “just a matter of time.” If we continue with our traditional systems for recruiting, motivating, developing, and retaining people, these statistics will remain stubbornly low.

  • cynthia

    Good blog, Hamlin. I hope a follow-up study will be done, asking “Why so few leaders from minority groups”? If honest answers can be obtained, they will be even more revealing.

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