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U of T named one of Canada’s best diversity employers

Angela Hildyard: Working hard to infuse equity & diversity into U of T culture

Although more needs to be done, “we’ve worked hard to infuse equity and diversity into U of T culture and to have them as values of the university,” says Angela Hildyard (photo by Diana Tyszko)

The University of Toronto has been recognized as one of Canada’s best diversity employers for  the ninth year in a row.

The annual ranking by Mediacorp recognizes employers across Canada with exceptional workplace diversity and inclusiveness programs, including women, members of visible minorities, persons with disabilities, Indigenous peoples, and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender/Transsexual (LGBT) peoples.

U of T was singled out for its proactive approach to equity and diversity, and also initiatives such as its anti-racism and cultural diversity office, its washroom inclusivity project and its mentoring programs. But U of T vice-president human resources and equity Angela Hildyard says more still needs to be done.

“With the strong support of many colleagues from around the University, we’ve worked hard to infuse equity and diversity into U of T culture and to have them as values of the university,” Hildyard told U of T News. “Not because it’s the law, but because it’s right. We don’t want our equity and diversity initiatives to be driven by complaints, but by a desire to embrace equity and diversity.”

In keeping with that, Hildyard said, U of T will be launching a revamped and expanded employee equity survey for faculty and staff later this year.

The current survey asks employees their sex, whether they identify as Indigenous, a person with a disability, a member of a visible minority or a member of a sexual minority. The revamped survey will include other categories and choices, as well as new questions, Hildyard said.

Once the employee survey is underway, U of T will look at how to collect diversity and equity data on students, Hildyard said. Collecting student information will require careful attention to a number  of factors, including ensuring compliance with privacy legislation and designing collection mechanisms that will optimize response rates and data accuracy. “There are still a lot of questions that need to be addressed vis-à-vis students .” She said collecting employee data is easier because that data has been collected for years as a requirement of the federal contractors program.

“We have good systems in place to ensure the data is held separately from other employment data.  All reports are in aggregate  and the data is aggregated in a ways that ensure no individual employee can be identified.”

Her office will engage  in consultations with various employee groups through existing  equity committees. When the survey is ready, she said, all current employees – both faculty and staff – will be invited to participate through the Employee Self Service website, as will all future hires. Hildyard noted that employees can change their information online at any time through the ESS.

“I believe that we are the only institution that has a statement on equity, diversity and excellence (the statement can be found here) which makes it clear that this institution believes that in order to be excellent, it must embrace equity and diversity,” Hildyard said.