The University of Toronto’s Employment Equity program, has provided an updated Equity survey for faculty and prospective job applicants in order to better determine U of T’s hiring practices.

U of T employees, consisting of faculty and staff, are asked to fill out the voluntary Employment Equity Survey each year at the beginning of July. The survey is used to indicate the amount of diversity amongst U of T employees and gather where initiatives and recruiting efforts can be improved. Containing questions referring to one’s sexual orientation, ethnic background and gender identity the survey is given to interested applicants seeking employment with the university. The survey states that the responses will not be shared with any hiring manager upon application submission.

According to U of T’s statement in the 2016-17 Employment Equity Report, “the information collected via the survey is used by the University to determine programs, resources, policies, and initiatives for the upcoming year, and to develop recruitment strategies that ensure the University is representative of our diverse community.”

The collection of human rights-based data, such as the Employment Equity Survey, are often addressed with a level of concern for ‘reverse-discrimination’ and for placing diversity quotas over merit and qualifications. While U of T does support the diversification of employees at all campuses, it does not currently have a diversity quota to fulfill.

In an interview with The Medium U of T spokesperson Elizabeth Church stated “Why do we care about diversity? Our students come from all over the world and from many different backgrounds, and it’s important that students see themselves in the faculty and staff who support them.”

While U of T’s updated survey has adopted more current questions and terminology, the participation rate of the survey has dropped from 84 per cent rate down to 70 per cent in the first year of its update. In the 2014-15 academic year the employee response rate was at 84.22 per cent, in the 2015-16 academic year it was at 84.38 per cent, until the last reported 2016-17 academic year where it dropped to 70 per cent.

In the last Academic Affairs Committee meeting, data extracted from U of T’s 2016-17 Employment Equity Survey to compute UTM faculty makeup was shown to distinguish UTM faculty data from U of T faculty and staff data.

From July 1st, 2016 to June 30th, 2017 UTM’s faculty consisted of 4.4 per cent people with a disability. Additionally, 16.6 per cent are racialized persons/people of colour and 35.4 per cent are female. From this data UTM saw where to promote initiatives and funding. Last month, in the UTM Campus Council meeting, the university stated funding from University Fund (UF) central program is going toward seven academic diversity positions and three indigenous faculty positions. In a previous statement to The Medium, Angelo Lange, VP Academic & Dean, stated that the funding will allow UTM to “hire in academic areas where there had either been a gender imbalance or there was a lack of persons of colour.”

“[U of T] believes diversity and excellence go hand-in-hand,” Church concluded. “That’s why we collect this demographic information about the diversity of our faculty and staff, so that we can see where gaps exist.”

The Canadian federal government passed the Employment Equity Act in 1995 and continues to advocate equality and fairness in the workplace with a focus on four underrepresented groups: women, people with disabilities, Aboriginal peoples, and members of visible minorities.

In 2006, U of T became one of the first universities to update their Employment Equity Survey to adopt new questions and self-identifying pronouns. Also, as opposed to answering the survey in its entirety the updated version allows respondents to answer select questions.

In contrast to the government’s current Employment Equity Survey, U of T’s updated survey gathers information on Indigenous / Aboriginal people, persons with disabilities, racialized people / people of colour, LGBTQ individuals, and women.

Church further discusses, “with the new Employment Equity Survey, we now have two years of data, which will help administrators identify how and where to improve recruitment and hiring practices, and employee retention.”