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Why Self-Identify?

A group of TMU employees walking down hallway

At TMU, we believe that having faculty and staff who reflect the diversity of our students and our city makes us a better university. It is critical to TMU's success to remove barriers and promote the inclusion of all TMU employees, including those from equity-seeking groups.  

Your information will help us determine where we are now so we can set realistic equity, diversity and inclusion goals and measure our progress. In turn, we’re able to create plans and strategies that improve the work experience of TMU employees.

Isn’t asking me to self-identify discriminatory?

On occasion, we have heard feedback from members of the community who wonder if asking someone to self-identify is discriminatory, in that it separates certain parts of our population. We recognize that the act of identifying can be uncomfortable for a variety of reasons, but as each of the perspectives below show us, self-identification is not discriminatory, and in fact it is a necessary and important step to creating a robust and inclusive workforce.

We know from peoples’ experiences, and from the literature, that historic discrimination and disadvantage has created persistent and systemic barriers for members of equity deserving groups. These barriers are not always obvious or intentional and so it is not easy to identify and remove them. They may be ingrained in policies, organizational culture and even within our minds.

The  (PDF file) Ontario Human Rights Commission guide (PDF) <fa-file-pdf-o> on special programs provides the following example of an initiative designed to address representation and workforce participation that would be based, in part, on good employment equity data:

Example: A police service recognizes that it does not look like the racially diverse community it serves. Most of its higher ranking officers are from non-racialized groups. If people from racialized groups (communities facing racism) join the service, they are less likely to be promoted and more likely to quit early on. The service relies on recruits to find more experienced officers to mentor them, which helps them move up in the ranks. However, people from racialized groups have trouble finding mentors. The service creates a special program to help officers from racialized groups take part in formal mentorship opportunities.

While this situation wouldn’t apply to TMU directly, it’s a good example of how an employer might assess their current employee representation , compared to the community they serve, to determine plans and strategies to make sure that there are equitable opportunities for all employees to achieve their potentiale. Without collecting the data, we can’t know how best to focus our equity efforts.

We understand that opportunities in society are not equally available to all citizens. Poverty, language, family and more all play a part in an individual’s ability to access education and work experience, which then impacts the ability to compete for jobs.

For example, some students have to work part time to pay for their university education and may have to take jobs that are not career-related. Other students may have families who are able to help pay for their education or help them find career-related summer jobs. This often creates advantages that carry through to employment and career progression after graduation.

These factors do not only impact individuals from the six groups, and many sub-groups and intersections, identified in the Diversity Self-Identification, however, because of historical disadvantage and discrimination they often disproportionately impact people from those groups. For example there are higher poverty and unemployment rates for IndigenousPeoples than for the non-Indigenous population in Canada.

TMU provides a gateway to career opportunities and can provide individuals from disadvantaged groups with improved access to education. Many Canadian universities offer scholarships and other awards specifically targeted to women, racialized people, Black people, First Nation, Métis and Inuit Peoples, persons with disabilities, and/or 2SLGBTQ+ students, as well as other targeted awards.

These scholarships and awards are provided based on data about under-representation in higher education. Similarly, equity data concerning employees provides evidence and rationale needed to effectively address disadvantages at the university faced by members of these groups. In a university setting, diversity in the workforce (particularly in the faculty) has been shown to improve the representation and success of students from these groups by providing role models with whom students can identify.