Australia: Why a cultural diversity target for public sector leadership is overdue

Surprising that Australia doesn’t have comparable reports to Canada’s employment equity reports. Their report is high level and has limited data tables, with visible minority data largely limited to immigrants. The Canadian approach of consistent detailed reporting, enhanced for the last five years with disaggregated data, has generated steady increases in representation:

The latest Census data shows that Australia is more multicultural than ever before, however senior leadership in the Australian Public Service (APS) does not reflect Australia’s diversity. A target should be implemented to elevate a greater percentage of culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) Australians into senior APS roles.

Introducing diversity targets in the APS is not a new concept. Targets are a tried and tested method of achieving systemic change and overcoming institutionalised biases in government hiring practices. For example, through a whole-of-government target, 50-50 gender parity has been achieved in all APS levels of leadership.

The latest Census data is concrete evidence of the increasingly multicultural identity of Australia, where half of Australians were born overseas or have a parent born overseas.

But rather than perceiving this as a “nice-to-have”, the business case for increased CALD leadership in the APS is clear.

The intercultural and linguistic skills of CALD Australians are invaluable in filling the capability gaps in the public sector. For example, leveraging the skills of the Chinese-Australian community will create a more China-literate APS, especially in roles relating to trade, foreign policy, national security, and cyber.

Cultural and linguistic competency is also relevant to domestic policymaking. During the height of COVID-19, Google Translate was used by the Department of Home Affairs to communicate public health messaging to CALD communities. If a senior public servant with multilingual skills and lived experience of engaging with CALD communities was present in the room at the time, they could have easily advised against the inadequacies of automated translation.

Enhanced CALD leadership can also increase staff retention in the APS. For CALD Australians who wish to ascend the career ladder but see a lack of diverse leadership above them, the problem of “you can’t be what you can’t see” serves as a barrier. One consequence of underrepresentation in leadership is increased turnover of staff from that underrepresented background.

For example, research from the UK government found that more than half of surveyed black, Asian, and minority ethnic employees perceived that they would have to leave their current workplaces for promotion opportunities.

While increased CALD leadership in the APS is a clear value-add, the road to reform will not be easy.

Existing CALD-related data in the APS is patchy since the provision of diversity data to the APS except for gender by employees is voluntary. Without comprehensive data, understanding the extent of CALD underrepresentation in leadership as a first step will be difficult to determine.

The finite pool of Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) resources in the APS is another roadblock. Addressing the systematic biases that plague other diverse groups such women, First Nations Australians, and people with disability is equally as important in achieving equity for all in the public sector. Implementing a CALD leadership target may detract time and effort from D&I initiatives aimed at these other underrepresented groups.

At the same time, public discourse has become more vocal in recent years regarding the importance of increased CALD representation in positions of power. The diversity gains in politics have been much applauded and are case studies for what public sector leadership could look like.

In 2013, now-deputy leader of the Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi was the first Muslim woman to enter any Australian parliament. Another win for diversity can be seen with Malaysian-born senator Penny Wong, who last year became Australia’s first foreign-born foreign minister.

Although the road to public sector reform is difficult, the creation of a CALD target in the APS is not impossible. The business case is there, and the public appetite for change exists.

All that’s left now is to convince government that now is the time to act.

Source: Why a cultural diversity target for public sector leadership is overdue

My articles and issues in 2021, focus for 2022

While a bit self-indulgent, thought it might be interesting to do a recap of my articles and commentary over the past year. 

A major focus has been the ongoing work with Dan Hiebert and Howard Ramos regarding the impact of COVID-19 on immigration and related programs (weekly comparison of Canadian provincial infections, deaths and vaccinations compared to other G7 and top immigration source countries: India, China, Philippines, Pakistan and Nigeria) and compilation of monthly IRCC operational statistics across immigration, citizenship and visitor visas, with partial results for settlement given no recent public datasets.


Birth tourism in Canada dropped sharply once the pandemic began (Policy Options, 2021)

Likely my most significant article, my analysis shows the impact of the “natural experiment” of the drastic fall in visitor visas issues and related travel restrictions on the number of non-resident self-pay hospital deliveries, confirming that birth tourists form more than 50 percent of non-resident births. My position has evolved from minimizing the issue some 10 years ago, to noting the need for ongoing monitoring and consideration of various approaches to reduce the practice to now advocating for a change in the Citizenship Act as the “cleanest” solution. 

Amid languishing numbers, Canada’s citizenship process needs to be modernized (Policy Options, 2021)

Given the ongoing weaknesses in citizenship program management, ranging from wide fluctuations in annual numbers of new citizens to limited and delayed data sets, this article makes the case for extensive modernization of citizenship operations (some of which has started or accelerated due to COVID).


Increasing immigration to boost population? Not so fast. (Policy Options, 2021)

Increasingly frustrated by some of the simplistic arguments advanced in favour of increased immigration by the Business Council of Canada, Century Initiative and others, I raised some needed questions that governments and policy makers need to consider and advocated a Royal Commission or equivalent to undertake a fundamental review of immigration policies that would take a broader perspective than a larger overall GDP. Some of my thinking was developed in my earlier Why the Canadian government must review its immigration policy (Open Democracy, 2021) and some was reiterated in The Need for a Longer Term Perspective on Immigration, Citizenship and Multiculturalism (Canadian Global Affairs Institute, 2021).

Will the pandemic make Canada less attractive to newcomers? (With Howard Ramos, Policy Options, 2021)

At the beginning of the work Dan Hiebert, Howard Ramos and I set out some of the questions we were asking regarding the impact of COVID on immigration, tracking both  COVID numbers in G7 and immigration source countries along with monthly tracking of the impact on immigration and related programs. While the end of the pandemic is not yet completely clear, we do have a good sense of how the government has reacted in terms of policy changes (e.g., massive shift to “two-step immigration”), modernization (more online applications, virtual citizenship ceremonies etc) and operations (backlog increases).


Racism and the need for a national integration commission (Policy Options, Philippine Canadian Inquirer, 2021)

Similar to my frustrations regarding immigration policies, much of the commentary and analysis over racism tended to overly simple framing of the issues, whether visible minority/not visible minority, Black and White differences, with limited discussion of the diversity within and among groups, the discrimination and biases that exist within and between groups, and the need for a better understanding of the neuropsychological basis for racism and discrimination. Again, I advocated a Royal Commission or equivalent, given the importance to social inclusion and cohesion, with a strong focus on lessons learned on what works.

Diversity and Employment Equity

Will the removal of the Canadian citizenship preference in the public service make a difference (Policy Options, 2021) andDiversity and inclusion: public service hirings, promotions and separations (The Hill Times, 2021).

The collection and publishing of disaggregated public service data for employment equity groups (official and likely to become official) provides the granularity needed to assess the different groups in terms of representation by occupational group, including hiring, promotions and separations. With four years of disaggregated data, visible minority representation has increased at three times the rate of not visible minorities, one that may increase further given the removal of Canadian citizenship preference. The other notable finding, in the context of the understandable focus on anti-Black racism, is that representation of Blacks in the public service is reasonably strong compared to a number of other visible minority groups and at the EX level, greater than South Asian, Chinese and Filipinos.

Contrasting pre- and post-pandemic public service survey results (The Hill Times, 2021)

Although we only have two-years disaggregated data for the Public Service Employee Survey (PSES), this provides a comparison pre- and post-pandemic. As one would expect, visible minority groups report more instances of harassment and discrimination than not visible minorities, with Blacks reporting more than other visible minority groups. Most striking for me in analyzing the data was the degree of scepticism if not cynicism regarding the government’s anti-racism initiatives, particularly for Blacks.

The Year Ahead

The big news of course is the release of the 2021 census data, providing a wealth of information to assess and analyze in terms of immigration, citizenship and multiculturalism. 2021 data also includes religious affiliation, providing another aspect to understanding diversity in Canada. So I expect to be busy!

While the government remains committed to its immigration levels plan, how it handles the backlog in all areas remains to be seen. In one sense, in order to deliver on its 401,000 number, privileging two-step immigration meant large backlogs on other immigrants, an issue that opposition parties will correctly focus on.

With respect to citizenship, while I would like to see some action on birth tourism (or at least some serious work!), the government needs to release the revised citizenship study guide (announced in 2016!) and eliminate citizenship fees (2019 and 2021 platforms). Whether the government will feel compelled to respond to some pressure regarding the first generation transmission of citizenship remains to be seen.


RCMP Quietly Releases Race-Based Data Showing Number Of Black Employees

Now that this data is available, good to see it becoming requested. One suggestion for requesters, whether parliamentarians, journalists, academics or others: ask for data for all visible minority groups in order to have needed context for each visible minority group, as knowing whether Black public servants are over or under-represented compared to not visible minority can either overstate or understate representation issues:

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) quietly released employment statistics showing 1.5 per cent of regular members in officer roles identify themselves as Black.

The data was disclosed in a document tabled in the House of Commons last week in response to a written question submitted by NDP MP Jack Harris in October.

Harris sits on the House’s public safety committee currently studying systemic racism in policing in Canada. In an order paper question, he asked the RCMP to provide demographic details about employees and asked for statistics about staff who self-identify as Indigenous, Black or “another visible minority.”

According to the document, of the permanent, regular RCMP members, 1.6 per cent described themselves as being of “mixed origin” as of Oct. 27, 2020. Slightly more employees who self-identified as Black hold non-police officer roles.

There are two categories of non-officer roles: civilian members and public service employees. Though both are considered public service workers, the distinction between them is determined by the conditions of their employment.

Civilian members, such as psychologists and 9-1-1 dispatchers, are hired under the RCMP Act, while public service workers are hired under the Public Service Employment Act.

Approximately 19,000 police officers are employed by the RCMP, according to the national police force. As of last year, just over 3,400 people were employed as civilian employees and nearly 7,700 people as public service employees.

Among public service employees, slightly more people (1.8 per cent) identified themselves as Black. One per cent of respondents self-described as “mixed origin.”

Among civilian members, the number is lower. Less than one per cent (0.9 per cent) of civilian members self-identified as Black, and 1.2 per cent as “mixed origin.”

The disaggregated data gives new insight into the RCMP’s demographics.

Source: RCMP Quietly Releases Race-Based Data Showing Number Of Black Employees

Employment Equity in the Public Service of Canada for Fiscal Year 2017 to 2018

My updated charts reflecting the latest government EE report. Most noteworthy is the small downtick in visible minority and Indigenous executive numbers.

The report does not provide an explanation for this decline. This may be due in part to the greater use of non-advertised processes (see Non-advertised appointments on the rise in the public service, PSC data show).

I am awaiting for the release of  PSC data contrasting advertised/non-advertised/unknown staffing processes for 2018-19 to ascertain whether two-year data suggesting this impact of the new appointment policy is confirmed with three years data:

Source:  Annual Report Publication

Latest Apple diversity report claims US pay equity, modest changes in gender and race

Latest numbers:

As of June, the company was 68 percent male and 32 percent female, Apple said on its website. That’s a shift of a single percentage point in favor of women.

In the U.S., the company was 56 percent white, 19 percent Asian, 12 percent Hispanic, 9 percent black, and 2 percent multiracial, another 1 percent being gathered into an “other” category. Notably the company actually increased the percentage of white employees 2 points, although Asian and Hispanic numbers were up 1 point apiece.

Less than 1 percent of American staff were undeclared, something Apple credits to “stronger internal processes and employees properly identifying themselves.” Most of the people who were previously undeclared turned out to be white, possibly explaining the above demographic shift.

On the pay equity front Apple claims that it has achieved total equity in the U.S. as of August, but is still working on the problem worldwide — this includes scrutinizing salaries, bonuses, and stock grants. There are no statistics on the company’s pay gaps elsewhere.

Like other tech companies Apple has sometimes come under criticism for being predominantly white and male in the U.S. In the past several years, though, the company has tried to adjust its hiring practices at all tiers. Its VP of Worldwide Human Resources, Denise Young Smith, is a black woman, and its retail head is former Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts.

Source: Latest Apple diversity report claims US pay equity, modest changes in gender & race