More than three-quarters (77 percent) of Canada’s universities explicitly reference equity, diversity and inclusion in their strategic plans or long-term planning documents, and 70 percent of institutions either already have or are in the process of developing an EDI action plan, a new survey by Universities Canada has found. (Universities Canada is the publisher of University Affairs.) The association canvassed its member institutions on their EDI activities as part of the association’s Inclusive Excellence Principles, adopted by members in 2017. Universities Canada also committed to a five-year action plan to support members’ progress.
The survey, conducted earlier this year, was done to collect baseline data to better understand the current EDI landscape at universities, and to enable members to compare results and share best practices, according to a report on the survey’s findings, released November 4.
“Survey results indicate that universities are prioritizing EDI action plans, strategies and policies …[and] the recruitment and retention of diverse talent among senior leaders, faculty, staff and students,” reads the report. “However, this survey shows that the higher education community, like many sectors, must continue to do more to advance EDI and demonstrate progress over time.”
Among the common challenges impeding institutions from making headway, respondents cited a lack of resources as the most pressing. This includes a lack of funding, both for recruitment and retention, and to support EDI staff and initiatives. For example, of those institutions with EDI offices, a third (32 percent) have one or less full-time equivalent staff. Other challenges include difficulty attracting and retaining diverse talent, including in senior leadership; institutional systems, policies, structures and cultures that can hinder progress; and insufficient information on best practices for EDI.
Approximately 60 percent of senior university leaders identify as belonging to at least one of the designated equity-seeking groups (women, racialized peoples, people with disabilities, Indigenous peoples, LGBTQ2S+). While racialized people represent just eight percent of senior leaders, they represent 21 percent of full-time faculty, 31 percent of doctorate holders and 22 percent of the Canadian general population.
Meanwhile, the proportion of women in senior leadership positions in universities (49 percent) is nearly equal to that of men. However, there are fewer women in the executive head and vice-president positions at Canadian universities. Of the 96 member institutions of Universities Canada, 25 have a female executive head, or more than one-quarter.
The Universities Canada survey is not the only one collecting EDI data in the postsecondary education sector. In October, Statistics Canada launched the Survey of Postsecondary Faculty and Researchers to fill in informational gaps around the level of EDI at colleges and universities. The survey stems from a federal government commitment in Budget 2018 to collect better data on postsecondary faculty and researchers in support of greater diversity among those receiving funding from the country’s three research granting councils.
The StatsCan survey was sent out to 100,000 people, including full- and part-time faculty, postdoctoral fellows, doctoral students and college instructors. Those invited to complete the survey have until December 6 to do so. The results are expected to be released by StatsCan starting sometime next spring.