The University of Toronto has made it easier to explore data on employment equity with the recent launch of an online Employment Equity Dashboard.
The dashboard enables users to explore five years of equity data gathered through its Employment Equity Survey, a data collection tool that offers an annual snapshot of how employees self-identify.
After redesigning the survey’s content six years ago, U of T’s Division of People Strategy, Equity & Culture (PSEC) is now seeking to significantly change how the U of T community engages with the employment equity data it collects.
For example, dashboard users can use the dashboard to filter by employee type, year, and campus. The dashboard – which substantially augments the university’s annual Report on Employment Equity – also reintroduces access to equity data for CUPE 3902, Unit 1 employees, many of whom hold multiple jobs.
Kelly Hannah-Moffat, vice-president, people strategy, equity and culture, recently spoke to U of T News about the evolution of the Employment Equity Survey and how the new dashboard can support efforts to improve representation gaps among the university’s employees.
How did the Employment Equity Survey start at U of T?
The university began administering an Employment Equity Survey in response to the Federal Contractors Program, designed to address inequalities in employment opportunity for members of one or more designated groups (the Employment Equity Act identifies four groups: Indigenous Peoples, women, persons with disabilities and members of visible minorities). The program requires Canadian employers to collect and report employment data through a voluntary self-identification survey. In addition to identifying gaps in representation, employers are responsible for taking steps to address these gaps in an intentional and meaningful way.
The University of Toronto has expanded our Employment Equity Survey over the years, recognizing the value of knowing the types of our employees who are and are not represented in our institution. For instance, we elaborated upon the Employment Equity Act’s categories of self-identification, adding ethnocultural identities such as “Black” and delineating between evident and non-evident disabilities. In 2016, our division led a complete overhaul of the questions U of T employees and applicants are invited to answer. We also gave respondents greater agency, allowing them to choose multiple categories, revise answers and opt out of questions, if they wished.
Our current Employment Equity Survey is one of the most detailed in the post-secondary sector, but there is definitely room for improvement. I am excited about the changes we’re undertaking now, and how they can impact the university’s recruitment, hiring and retention strategies, our programming and funding, and many other areas of policy and practice.
What kinds of information does the most recent survey (2021) tell us about the composition of U of T’s employees? Any notable trends?
In terms of the university’s staff population, we saw an increase in staff who self-identified as Racialized or Persons of Colour, Black, Persons with Disabilities, 2SLGBQ+, and Trans. The self-identification data of our new hires also suggests that our staff increasingly reflect the diversity of the Greater Toronto Area. That is welcome news, as it means that we are building stronger connections to the communities that surround our three campuses.
On the faculty side, the number of new faculty hired who self-identified as Racialized or Persons of Colour was significantly higher this year than last. Many of these new faculty positions are supported by base budget funding from the Provost’s Diversity in Academic Hiring Fund, which has provided funding for 160 diverse faculty hires (primarily Black and Indigenous faculty) since 2016. We need to sustain this focus on attracting and supporting candidates who are least represented at U of T.
How does the new Employment Equity dashboard connect to the recommendations of the Anti-Black Racism Task Force report?
The report called for a reassessment of how the university collects and presents employment equity data, and the new dashboard we’ve released makes an important first step in that direction. It represents “phase 1” in the dashboard’s development: now that we have established the means to share the data in a dynamic way, we can work with our community to improve what data we collect – and how.
The dashboard is part of a larger “Employment Equity Project” that we initiated last year to support data-driven decision-making at the university. An advisory group of faculty, librarians, and staff is currently working to provide recommendations in two areas: data governance (considering who should have access to our employment equity data and what they should see) and employment equity survey content (focusing on ways to improve the current survey). We will have reports from the advisory group by the end of this summer and then will start planning enhancements to our dashboard. We expect to launch a revised Employment Equity Survey in 2023.
How do you see the dashboard evolving in future? What do you hope the dashboard will be able to tell us?
One of the discussions we're currently having is how to enable comparisons at a more granular level. In future, that could mean, for instance, that deans and other academic leaders could compare faculty and staff representation in their own unit with that in other units across the university. Having this degree of access – and insight – could help leaders make very informed and strategic decisions about recruitment and hiring, and to identify where new programs and policies would be needed to support every member of their unit.
Why is it important to improve representation among the university’s employees?
This work has so many implications for who we are as a university and what kind of role we see the university playing within our local community and more broadly. It has implications for how we understand excellence in relation to the scholarship and work we do at this institution, too.
To distil all these many layers, I would say improving representation among our faculty, librarians and staff is necessary groundwork. It is an important way in which we can foster the conditions that allow diverse perspectives and lived experience to be shared and valued at this university.
Embracing difference, not uniformity, nurtures and sustains excellence. It can inspire new ideas, keeping us intellectually curious as a community and able to think more creatively about the world and our place in it.
I’d also say that if we support diverse representation among our employees, we are much better positioned to attract and – crucially – to support a diverse student population. We set our employees and students up for success if they can feel free to be themselves and become who they truly want to be.