Canada's Best
Diversity Employers (2021)
Winners from our 14th annual editorial competition
This year marks the 14th edition of the Canada's Best Diversity Employers competition, which evaluates inclusiveness initiatives for employees from five major communities (Photo: Naqiewei/Getty)

About the Competition

Background

Now in its 14th year, Canada's Best Diversity Employers recognizes employers across Canada that have exceptional workplace diversity and inclusiveness programs. This competition recognizes successful diversity initiatives in a variety of areas, including programs for employees from five groups: (a) women; (b) members of visible minorities; (c) persons with disabilities; (d) Indigenous peoples; and (e) lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender/transsexual (LGBT) peoples. This competition replaced our two annual rankings of the top employers for women and visible minorities, which we published as an appendix to our paperback between 2002 and 2007, when the present competition was launched. Read the special magazine announcing this year's winners published on March 2, 2021 and featured in The Globe and Mail. Read the press release issued the same day for more background on this year's winners.


Bank of Canada offers a master's-level scholarship program for women in economics and finance aimed at creating a more gender-balanced talent pipeline in the future

Selection Process

To determine this year's winners of the Canada's Best Diversity Employers competition, Mediacorp editors reviewed diversity and inclusiveness initiatives at a large number of employers that took part in this year’s Canada's Top 100 Employers project. From this applicant pool, a smaller short-list of employers with noteworthy and unique diversity initiatives was developed. The short-listed candidates' programs were compared to those of other employers in the same field. The finalists chosen represent the diversity leaders in their industry and region of Canada.


Since 2014, Manulife has organized a worldwide employee group, the Global Women's Alliance, to elevate the profile of women throughout the company and inspire them to reach their potential with resources and coaching

Reasons for Selection

Each year, the winners are announced in a special magazine featured in The Globe and Mail, which is our media sponsor on the competition. For our detailed Reasons for Selection, please review the full list of winners below. Publishing detailed Reasons for Selection is a distinguishing feature of our competition: it provides transparency in the selection of winners and 'raises the bar' so that other employers can discover and adopt initiatives that work well elsewhere.


Business Development Bank of Canada has completed on-site physical audits at its Halifax, Montreal and Toronto business centres to identify potential physical barriers for employees

Eligibility Requirements

Any employer with its head office or principal place of business in Canada may apply for this competition. Employers of any size may apply, whether private or public sector. Each applicant must have an interesting initiative for at least one of the five above diversity groups covered by this competition.

2022 Competition

Applications for our 2022 competition will be available early in 2021. Our 2022 winners will be announced in The Globe and Mail early in 2022. Join our mailing list to stay up to date and receive an application for next year's competition.

An associate dean at McMaster University, Dr. Bernice Downey (herself of Saulteaux-Ojibway heritage) oversees and promotes Indigenous health initiatives within the Faculty of Health Sciences (Photo: K. Robbins)
An associate dean at McMaster University, Dr. Bernice Downey (herself of Saulteaux-Ojibway heritage) oversees and promotes Indigenous health initiatives within the Faculty of Health Sciences (Photo: K. Robbins)

Introduction

Diversity is more than making sure everyone feels welcome in the workplace. It's also about a seat at the table.

Canada's Best Diversity Employers 2021, selected by Mediacorp Canada Inc., recognize that real change begins with real action. That means taking proactive steps to address the systemic and unconscious inequities of race and gender that exist in Canadian organizations.

In this time marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, Black Lives Matter and Truth and Reconciliation for Indigenous peoples, there is fresh impetus for companies to make a difference – and an increased awareness of past injustice.

The winners of this specialty competition have been recognized for their ongoing efforts with a wide array of progressive inclusion initiatives, from unconscious bias training to diversity targets to support for mental health. What's key is having a formalized plan and strategy for unlocking opportunities and making true diversity and inclusion a reality. That includes a deep dive into determining where the inequalities lie, a willingness to act from the top down and a shift to meaningful representation at every level.

Take a look at the City of Vancouver which adopted an extensive, long-term strategy to address systemic issues that impact women's full inclusion, with goals and actions that focus on increasing female representation within the city's senior management and underrepresented occupations. Transparency matters as well, with the city recently publishing its first annual workforce pay and gender report.

Opening dialogue is key to understanding the underlying issues. For example, Rogers Communications launched "Safe Talk and Safe Talking and Listening" sessions to create space for self-identifying Black employees and allies to engage in conversation on anti-racism and on constructive ways to be an ally to the Black community.

The benefits for companies that embrace best practices around diversity and inclusion are well established. The increased innovation, productivity and revenue growth sparked by diverse perspectives speak for themselves.

Methodology

While the selection process to choose the winners of Canada's Best Diversity Employers continually evolves to include new questions that reflect changes in the workplace, the methodology and selection criteria for the competition essentially remains the same as in previous years. The Mediacorp competition recognizes employers across Canada that have exceptional workplace diversity and inclusiveness programs. These include successful diversity initiatives in a variety of areas, including programs for employees from five groups: women; members of visible minorities; persons with disabilities; aboriginal people; and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered/transsexual (LGBTQ) people.

To determine the winners of the competition, the editors at Mediacorp's Top Employers reviewed the diversity and inclusiveness initiatives of all employers that applied for the Canada's Top 100 Employers project. From this overall applicant pool, a smaller short list of employers with noteworthy and unique diversity initiatives was developed. The short-listed candidates' programs were then compared to those of other employers in the same field. The finalists represent the diversity leaders in their industry and region of Canada.

The Globe and Mail is not involved in the judging process.

Mediacorp's Canada's Best Diversity Employers is an annual national competition, and all applicants must pay a fee to enter. Any employer with its head office or principal place of business in Canada may apply regardless of size, whether private or public sector.

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2021 Winners

Here are 2021 winners of the Canada's Best Diversity Employers competition. Click an employer name to read our editors' full Reasons for Selection:


Employees at the Toronto Transit Commission / TTC receive training on a wide range of diversity topics, such as providing inclusive service to diverse customers, cultural competency and understanding unconscious bias (Photo: D. Stryland)

TD Bank Group recently refreshed its diversity and inclusion strategy with new initiatives directed at the intersections of different identities
TD Bank Group recently refreshed its diversity and inclusion strategy with new initiatives directed at the intersections of different identities

Year of Change

How the Black Lives Matter protests raised the urgency of making diversity and inclusion a priority at Canadian employers

When the intense Black Lives Matter protests erupted around the world in 2020, even many of Canada's Best Diversity Employers were a bit shaken by the reaction among their own employees.

After all, in their workplaces, making sure employees are comfortable in their own skins, bring their whole selves to work and feel respected and heard is just second nature. These are organizations that have long been committed to the most progressive principles of diversity, equity and inclusion.

And yet, in 2020, there was still more to do. Take Air Canada, which has a shining record as a leader in diversity on several fronts, including gender equity and LGBTQ+ policies, as well as its multicultural staff. The company regularly received strong positive responses on its employee engagement surveys.

"But the George Floyd incident stirred a lot of emotion," says Marc Olivier, the airline's senior director of talent, engagement and diversity. "Employees were writing to us saying, what are you doing, what's our commitment, what's our voice?"

Olivier says that despite all the rafts of diversity information, tools and training on the employee website, leaders realized they had to take focused action on anti-Black racism. The company held online town halls, ran focus groups for people to express their views, mounted a detailed diversity survey, and brought senior leaders into a new Executive Council on Diversity and Inclusion. It also ramped up support for Black youth scholarships and signed on to a pledge to fight systemic anti-Black racism.

Air Canada was hardly alone. When meeting with his peers at conferences, Olivier discovered that finding ways to support Black employees was on everyone's mind. "That became an extreme focal point for every organization," he says. "It was the same ripple through every company."

Indeed, that ripple flowed across Canada's Best Diversity Employers, and, like Air Canada, they responded vigorously. Most made public statements calling out systemic racism, but many also held intensive internal listening sessions. At RBC, one of Canada's largest employers, that led to an action plan that includes a $100 million commitment to help Black entrepreneurs over the next five years. Bell Canada accelerated efforts to hire more people from Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) communities, as did other employers. At many organizations, too, affinity groups specifically for Black employees sprang up.

In fact, says Kristina Leung, senior editor at Mediacorp Canada which runs the competition, the events of 2020—in the middle of a pandemic—seemed to bring issues to a head. "It really made people feel impatient, " she says. "They wanted to see less talk and more action to drive change, and I think that was reflected among the winners."

The listening was critical, she says. "It became really important for organizations to pause and take stock of where they are, and make sure they listened to what employees had to say about how they wanted their own organization to respond.

At the same time, many employers were expanding their efforts in the related area of intersectionality, in which one employee may self-identify as part of various communities. A woman, for instance, may also identify as a visible minority, or LGBTQ+, or all three. TD Bank Group recently refreshed its diversity and inclusion strategy with initiatives directed at the intersections of different identities. "If you were just to look at the experience of women, that would not be wholly inclusive of the experience of a female visible minority, so for TD to talk about the intersections of identity is, I think, very progressive," says Leung.

Many organizations are also deepening their efforts to gain detailed data on their workforce. "It's the concept of what gets measured gets done," Leung says. "You need to establish a baseline from which you can develop goals. The metrics help you understand what your workforce actually looks like now, where the pipelines are in terms of incoming recruitment and tracking internal movements, and where there might be barriers or challenges to having the representation that an organization is actually striving for."

In the wake of such an eventful year, Canada's Best Diversity Employers are girding to reach the next level. "Change takes time," says Leung. "We're at a point where we're ready to see more action, more movement towards commitments that have been made. Inclusion is about listening and learning, and I think we'll see much more of that in the year ahead."

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