Resident collects numbers that suggest the City of Mississauga has too few people of colour working in management positions
In response to local (and worldwide) protests against anti-Black racism, Mississauga city council passed a motion vowing to take concrete action against all forms of systemic racism and discrimination within its institutions—and it appears that the city might want to examine the demographics of its highest-ranking employees.
In June, Raymond Wali, a lifelong Mississauga resident, did some cursory research on LinkedIn and noticed a surprising trend: A distinct lack of Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) occupying management and director positions within the city.
The trend was even more mystifying considering the fact that in Mississauga, a city of close to 800,000 people, almost 60 per cent of residents identify as members of racialized groups.
"I found it a bit interesting and not in a good way. For me being a person of colour, it's a bit disturbing."
Wali, who said he was open to being contradicted by the city should his research prove inaccurate, told insauga.com that a quick search on the popular professional networking site suggests that the City of Mississauga has roughly 31 director-style positions and that only one of them is occupied by a person of colour.
He said his research suggests that there are currently no Black people in any directorial positions at the city. Wali also said that when his research was expanded to include managerial positions, he found that out of more than 240 jobs, only five employees are considered people of colour.
"This equates to six out of 271 management- and director-level positions that belong to BIPOC. That is 2.2 per cent [overall] and zero per cent for Black males. In a city that boasts up to 60 per cent visible minorities, this is an embarrassingly low number," Wali says, adding that he wonders it happened.
"I have to govern from the gut and I sense that something is wrong."
The City of Mississauga wasn't able to confirm or refute Wali's research, saying that the city has not historically collected workforce demographic data but plans to take steps to "meaningfully achieve equity and address systemic barrier for equity-seeking groups across the city's employment system" going forward.
"On March 30, 2020, the City of Mississauga was planning to launch its first Diversity & Inclusion survey which asks a series of questions to collect data on the representation of equity-seeking groups in its workforce," Lori Kelly, Director, Human Resources, told insauga.com in an email.
"The purpose of the survey is to have accurate quantitative data on the City of Mississauga’s workforce make up, to identify gaps where under-representation of equity-seeking groups may exist, and to use this information to develop strategies to address these gaps."
Kelly said that due to COVID-19, the survey launch has been deferred until Fall 2020.
The city plans to report data from the survey next year.
Wali said that while he's always appreciated the city's stance on inclusivity, performative actions and gestures are not enough and real changes must be made.
"It's great to say something and attend cultural events and wish people happy Ramadan and happy Eid, but where it really matters there's been no action. I was a bit cautious about stirring the pot, but the timing is right and somebody needs to be held accountable," he says.
"I don't want platitudes. I'm looking for numbers and data and if they support my initial conclusion, how did we get here and how do we fix it? Who's responsible and who dropped the ball? Who might need to resign and move on? This is affecting BIPOC people's livelihoods—why are they not in these positions?"
Acknowledging that even Mississauga's council is largely made up of white residents, Wali said he's more concerned that the city's workforce might not reflect the diversity of the city.
"Councillors are voted in and that's fair and that's due process. I'd like to see more representation, but what I'm trying to shake up are things that the city has the ability to affect the change of. Specifically, I know the city hires people of colour but why are they not considered for management positions?"
Wali says that while he doesn't think hiring managers are actively trying to exclude people of colour, something is still wrong.
"I don't think there's somebody in there saying 'no coloured people', but I'm asking how does this happen? Are we not posting jobs correctly? Are people in [hiring managers'] circles getting preference? I don't believe it's blatant, but systemic racism is embedded. The city needs clear data on what jobs were posted, where they were posed, who applied and what was the makeup of those people. They have to be held accountable."
In her email to insauga.com, Kelly acknowledged that systemic, subconscious racism exists within the city's institutions.
"The City of Mississauga recognizes that racism, and in particular anti-discrimination is a crisis in our community that requires immediate and sustained attention, and acknowledges that historical and group-based disadvantages exist in our workplace," she said.
Kelly said the city is working to address structural barriers in its programs and practices by implementing over 20 recommendations laid out in the Workforce Diversity and Inclusion Strategy that was approved in 2017.
"As we continue to work through the recommendations, the City of Mississauga has committed to apply an equity lens to ensure programs and initiatives respond to the specific types of systemic barriers experienced by Black and Indigenous communities in achieving equitable employment outcomes."
The city's motion to immediately address systemic racism and the barriers it erects within the community came after weeks of anti-racism protests and intense scrutiny of the impact of systemic racism against people of colour.
The motion, introduced by Mayor Bonnie Crombie, was presented days after the fatal police-involved shooting of Ejaz Choudhry, a 62-year-old father of four who reportedly suffered from schizophrenia and was in crisis when police entered his Malton apartment in late June.
The Special Investigations Unit, an arm's length agency that investigates reports involving police where there has been death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault, is investigating the case.
Crombie, who has been asked whether or not she'll push to defund Peel Regional Police, recently commented on the incident and signalled her willingness to take a different approach to decisions involving the police budget.
Last month, Crombie said that the city's institutions should better reflect the municipality's diverse population.
“We are in a pivotal moment right now and it is incumbent on all institutions, including the City of Mississauga, that we take action to address racism and discrimination,” said Crombie in a statement.
“To be good on the outside, we must be good on the inside. It is important that our institutions are representative of the people they serve and that everyone is treated fairly and with respect, free from bias and discrimination. [The] motion commits the city as a corporation and a community to confronting racism and discrimination, and in particular anti-Black racism and discrimination, and take meaningful action. Our work to confront these challenges is never done, but I am confident that by working with council, city staff, and the broader community, we can take significant steps forward.”
At a June 24 council meeting, Crombie spoke about white privilege and said that since most local institutions have been built by white people, they often unknowingly support white community members and their unique interests.
Crombie said the city needs to “take a long hard look in the mirror” to ensure its institutions are representative of the city’s diverse population.
Wali said it's time to not only take action on the underrepresentation of people of colour in the city's workforce but also determine why there was inaction on the file in the first place.
"I've attended some meetings and I want to delve a little deeper and see what this is. I had applied for a position and I did not get a call for the interview and that was interesting to me. Coupled with my past experience and seeing the makeup, that prompted me to wonder if there's something here," Wali says.
"Something in the system is broken. We need to see the [employment] data and the city needs to be transparent with it and do some soul-searching. How are [possibly] 98 per cent of management and direction positions not filled by any people of colour when you have a city that is 60 per cent visible minorities? Somebody needs to be held accountable."
Kelly said the city is aware that it has work to do.
"We acknowledge there is work to do, and are taking the necessary steps to promote positive social change and achieve substantive equality in our workplace. The City of Mississauga is committed to ensuring all employees are treated with respect, dignity, and supported to reach their full potential," Kelly said.
"We are prepared to have transparent and accountable conversations with our employees and to work together to ensure all employees have the equitable opportunities to join and advance within the [city] while being treated with respect, dignity, and supported to reach their full potential."
Last month, the city said the mayor’s office, in consultation with the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee (DIAC) will convene a series of community-led consultations on systemic racism, anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism and discrimination and identify areas for systemic change in the community.
The mayor’s office also said it will convene a Black Caucus to advise on equity issues and priorities identified by Black communities and report back to council publicly in six months; review the terms of reference for DIAC to ensure it is fulfilling its mandate and focusing, in part, on anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism; review the city and Region of Peel’s consultation and communications strategy with respect to racism and discrimination and the reform of its institutions, and work with the Region of Peel to carry out the region’s anti-racism public education/awareness campaigns at the city level.
Wali said he hopes to see real and concrete change and acknowledgement that something has gone wrong when it comes to hiring practices.
"Typical platitudes are great, but that's not what I'm demanding. I'm demanding numbers, demanding to know who's responsible and then action," he says.
"Let's see what the explanation is. I've taken this on as my piece of the action. I'm open to being wrong, but the initial numbers don't look good. It doesn't hurt to have a discussion. Let's talk about action and why there was inaction or what went wrong first."
Cover photo courtesy of @idris.yyz
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