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Forbes ranks Toronto Metropolitan University top Canadian employer for diversity

TMU recognized as the first to develop an institutional diversity data program to address barriers and increase representation
July 18, 2023
Pamela Sugiman, Cornel West and Sharmaine McKenzie.

Along with the name change, the university has also implemented a range of strategies to build a more equitable workplace, earning it the top spot on Forbes’ list of Canada’s Best Employers for Diversity 2023. Pictured here are philosopher and activist Cornel West with Pamela Sugiman, Dean of Arts and Sharmaine McKenzie, executive director, strategic initiatives and operations at the Lincoln Alexander School of Law.

Toronto Metropolitan University has earned the top spot on Forbes (external link)  list of Canada’s Best Employers for Diversity 2023, a ranking of the top 150 organizations across the country promoting creative, diverse, equitable and inclusive workplaces. The university’s trailblazing Diversity Self-ID program has been recognized for supporting efforts to increase representation of equity-deserving groups and informing equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) goals through engaged dialogue and a high-level of data transparency. 

“We are honoured that Toronto Metropolitan University has been named Canada’s Best Employer for Diversity 2023 by Forbes,” says Mohamed Lachemi, president and vice-chancellor, Toronto Metropolitan University. “The university prides itself on being intentionally diverse and inclusive, carrying out a core value that we actively embed into everything we do.

“This achievement is a result of the dedication and passion of numerous people who have worked tirelessly to establish our uniquely vibrant, diverse and inclusive culture. We will continue our commitment to EDI as a way to enhance creativity and innovation, broaden perspectives and support socially relevant research excellence.”

TMU consistently engages with community members to understand their experiences and expectations. The Anti-Black Racism Campus Climate Review, the  (PDF file) Truth and Reconciliation Community Consultation Report and Access TMU are examples of how the university aims to bring about sustained systemic change that is informed by the campus community. 

Significantly, the Mash Koh Wee Kah Pooh Win (Standing Strong) Task Force was launched in 2020 to seek an understanding of both Egerton Ryerson’s life and legacy and the role of commemoration at the university. The resulting Standing Strong Task Force Report and Recommendations initiated plans to better support Indigenous community members and led to the university’s renaming amongst other decolonization efforts.

The university also consults with 10 campus community networks that create inclusive, identity-affirming spaces and address barriers on campus.

Transparent data collection 

Canadian universities have been collecting employee and student diversity data for decades to fulfill the requirements of the Federal Contractors' Employment Equity Program. However, TMU was the first to move beyond compliance with legislative and government requirements and develop an institutional diversity data program for employees and students, with a high level of data transparency that involves collection, analysis and reporting that align with the university’s values and goals. The results are also used to measure the university’s progress. 

“The university's efforts in promoting a workplace environment built on equity, diversity, inclusion and decolonization are meaningfully addressing systemic barriers and racism, with the objective of creating a human rights-centred university where all community members feel valued and can be supported to achieve their goals,” says Tanya (Toni) De Mello, vice-president, equity and community inclusion. 

“We are doing this work proactively and every day, because we want to be a place that doesn’t just respond in times of crisis and tragedy, but works arduously to create a stronger sense of belonging on our campus.”

The diversity data has been key to removing barriers and promoting inclusion, and is accessible to faculties and departments to inform their policies and practices around hiring, retaining and promoting diverse talent. Specific strategies to improve inclusion span hiring and promotion practices, bias training, access to gender-affirming health benefits and employee engagement initiatives to better understand the diverse and intersectional experiences of TMU’s workforce.

“At TMU, our commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion is intentionally built into every stage of the employee lifecycle. From recruitment to onboarding to performance and development and through our policies and collective agreements, this is our priority,” says Jenny O'Donnell, chief human resources officer at TMU. “It starts with the candidate Diversity Self-ID at application which allows us to understand our talent pools to increase diversity and address barriers in the recruitment process to create robust pipelines of talent.”

The seven-year trend in TMU’s diversity data shows notable progress for women, racialized people, Black people and Indigenous Peoples in many areas of work at the university. EDI efforts are focused on building diversity in the pipelines to occupations in which equity-deserving groups are underrepresented, such as women in STEM, as well as to recognize transferable skills, equivalent qualifications and excellence in different forms to make continued progress.

While Toronto Metropolitan University has made significant progress in addressing systemic racism and discrimination, this work is ongoing. 

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