Visible minorities under-represented in greater Toronto area leadership

Just 13 per cent of Greater Toronto Area (GTA) leaders are visible minorities, relative to 49.5 per cent of the population studied in the region, finds a report released today by Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute on behalf of DiverseCity: The Greater Toronto Leadership Project.

DiverseCity Counts: A Snapshot of Diversity in the Greater Toronto Area looked at 3,257 leaders in the GTA across the corporate, public, not-for-profit and education sectors. The report is the first to look across sectors and to provide a benchmark of how well our region’s visible minorities are reflected in its senior leadership roles.

“Now that we have a clearer picture of where we stand as a region, we’re in a much better position to do something about it,” says Wendy Cukier, co-author of the report with Margaret Yap, and founder of Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute.

Previous research has shown a clear link between diversity in leadership and prosperity. Diverse leadership improves organizational financial performance and stimulates innovation, among other well-documented benefits. “Diverse leadership has a profound effect on the hopes and aspirations of citizens, and consequently, their achievements and social inclusion,” Cukier notes.

“We found significant differences within sectors and between sectors and also surfaced some high performing examples. What’s interesting is that organizations that make a point of tracking and reporting on their results tend to have higher levels of diversity. What gets measured gets done,” adds Cukier.

The boards of the City of Toronto’s public agencies scored highest with 31 per cent of their membership comprised of visible minorities. Since building in mechanisms to measure their performance in this area, these boards have seen a 40 per cent improvement in just four years. Also of note, boards in all but one sector had much higher levels of representation than the executive staff of their organizations.

Other key findings:
  • Across sectors, the education sector came out on top with college boards showing the best results at 27 per cent;
  • The business sector trailed other sectors at the board and executive levels (3 per cent and 5 per cent respectively);
  • Comparisons within sectors found significant differences. For example, only 10 per cent of councillors are visible minorities in the five municipalities studied, compared with 23 per cent of MPPs.
  • The report also identifies a number of successful strategies to increase diversity across sectors.

“These results are a wake-up call,” says Ratna Omidvar, president Maytree and co-chair of the DiverseCity Project that commissioned the research. “We’ve got work to do to give the GTA the edge it needs to compete on the world stage.”

DiverseCity Counts is the first of three annual reports commissioned by DiverseCity: The Greater Toronto Leadership Project. For more on DiverseCity and to read the full report, visit
DiverseCity: The Greater Toronto Leadership Project is an initiative of Maytree and the Toronto City Summit Alliance. The Diversity Institute at Ryerson University focuses on fact-based strategies for increasing inclusion.