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Gender Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: Business and Higher Education Perspectives

Multi-ethnic group of students working together

In 2017, The Conference Board of Canada convened over 50 representatives from post-secondary education (PSE), government, and business to discuss ways to improve cultural and leadership practices around gender equity, diversity, and inclusion.

The two-day meeting, organized on behalf of the Quality Network for Universities (QNU), featured presentations from university administrators, academics, the private sector, and others on gender equity through design thinking (which prioritizes finding practical and creative solutions to problems); gender and innovation; inclusive recruitment and retention in the workplace; and gender diversity on campus (download full agenda).

This report explores insights shared at the 2017 QNU Meeting with the intention of continuing the conversation on gender equity in Canada; inspiring decision-makers to take action; and engaging more deeply with the assumptions that can impact our judgement.

Report Highlights

  • Women and other equity groups continue to be underutilized and underrepresented in senior-decision making roles, certain academic and professional fields, and the workforce.
  • Creative tools like design thinking and strategic foresight can be leveraged to address implicit bias—or bias based on unintentional assumptions—and develop solutions to equity challenges.
  • Achieving greater equity, diversity, and inclusion has both public and private benefits for Canada.

Although the gender gap in educational attainment favours women, gender imbalances vary widely by degree level and discipline. Women continue to be significantly underrepresented in high-earning STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) fields. Just as gender inequities are present in post-secondary attainment, they are also evident in labour force participation and outcomes, with women consistently underrepresented in senior leadership positions. The structural barriers and gaps to post-secondary education and work are wider yet for Indigenous peoples, people with disabilities, LGBTQ2S, and racialized Canadians.

Key Take-aways

A number of key themes, lessons learned, and best practices emerged from the presentations and discussions:

  • There is both an ethical and a business case for increasing gender equity.
  • Efforts to increase diversity and inclusion must begin at the top.
  • Students and external forces put pressure on PSE institutions to become more diverse and inclusive.
  • Steps must be taken to reduce implicit bias in PSE institutions.
  • Design-based solutions can play a significant role in addressing implicit bias.
  • Diversity initiatives must include targets and measurement of progress towards targets.

Full Report

Access the full report free of charge.

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