A program of Ryerson University’s Chang School of Continuing Education
“Canada is a great example of a pluralistic country and yet, we still struggle to get it right. onBoard has helped change the way leadership looks in this country with an approach that should serve as a model to other countries struggling with representation and access to equal opportunities.”– Joe Clark, former Prime Minister of Canada and Chair of the Global Pluralism Award Jury.
Look around the table at the board members of Canada’s private and public sectors, and you will see a persistent disconnect with the make-up of the Canadian population. Canada has long been proud of its diversity, but the composition of its boards does not relay the same story.
onBoard Canada was created to address this gap between Canada’s decision-makers and its demographic reality. onBoard recognized that it was not enough to be a diverse country; Canada also needed to be actively inclusive. Without real inclusion, how could Canada’s leadership ever benefit from the country’s diversity?
To create pathways to leadership, onBoard Canada offers governance training to interested participants, and board matching to members of underrepresented communities. The organization also offers training to the not-for-profit and public sectors to help leaders recognize their own privilege and provide them with the tools to create more inclusive workplaces. As a program of Ryerson University’s G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education, onBoard Canada conducts research in partnership with the Diversity Institute about the lack of diversity in Canada’s leadership.
By helping underrepresented individuals claim a seat at the decision-making table, the organization ensures more Canadians have a say in the decisions that affect them. But Canada’s underrepresented groups are not the only beneficiaries. Boards are invigorated and strengthened by a wide range of voices and perspectives.
onBoard Canada has changed the make-up of not-for-profit and public boards in the Greater Toronto Area and in several cities across the country. It has trained and matched thousands of individuals to board opportunities, with over 1,000 appointments to more than 800 not-for-profit organizations, public agencies, boards and commissions.
By bridging the diversity and inclusion gap in Canada’s leadership, onBoard is raising the standards for modern governance. In the end, all of Canada benefits.
Canada is a diverse country, and recent demographic projections suggest that ethno-cultural diversity will continue to increase. By 2031, 29-32% of the country’s population will be made up of visible minorities. Other diverse communities within Canada have also gained greater visibility and are demanding recognition and representation. Individuals from LGBTQ+ communities are feeling safer to come out publicly; youth are seeking a voice at decision-making tables; and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission identified 94 highly publicized calls to action regarding reconciliation between indigenous peoples and Canadians. Yet leadership does not reflect this reality. In 2017, Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute found that visible minorities make up 3.3% of corporate board positions, an increase of less than 1% since 2014. Although women make up 48% of the workforce, in 2017 they only held 14.5% of all Canadian board seats in companies that disclose this information.