This report is the fourth of five in the Career Advancement in Corporate Canada: A Focus on Visible Minorities series, which explores how visible minority women and men perceive their career advancement and development in corporate Canada. The series is based on research conducted by Catalyst and the Diversity Institute in Management & Technology at Ryerson Institute in Toronto. This report examines how well visible minorities felt they fit into the work environment, whether and how they perceived being stereotyped by others in the workplace, and how they felt others perceived them as potential leaders.
Impetus: By 2017, visible minorities are expected to represent one in five people in Canada’s available workforce; by 2011, they will comprise all net growth in the labour force. These talented, hard-working women and men will be critical to the performance of Canadian companies and firms in the decades to come.
Methodology: These findings are based on 19 focus groups with visible minority and white/Caucasian managers, professionals, and executives. Additional data comes from an employee survey of more than 17,000 managers, professionals, and executives and an employer survey on diversity and inclusion programs and practices.
- Some visible minorities said they experienced a lack of “fit” within their employing organizations because of their ethnic/racial and language background. Many respondents, particularly those of East Asian and South Asian heritage, said they felt a need to conform to a Canadian identity (“to Canadianize”) to succeed.
- Some East Asians felt they were stereotyped as “hard-working but not sociable,” while South Asian respondents reported being stereotyped as “outsiders,” even though many of them had been born in Canada.
- Black respondents reported being perceived as lacking in skill or motivation to work, and they felt isolated within their organizations. Unlike respondents of Asian background, black respondents did not mention acculturation as a strategy for fitting into their organizations.
- Some visible minorities reported not being fully accepted by the white/Caucasian majority in their organizations.
- Norms in Canadian businesses regarding communication, specifically politeness and “political correctness,” may make it difficult for organizations to address tensions in multicultural workplaces; this has the potential to impede career advancement for visible minorities.