Black Canadians still face racism at work despite progress, KPMG survey finds

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Despite ongoing efforts by Canadian companies to foster more equitable and inclusive workplaces, a significant majority of Black Canadians continue to experience racism and microaggressions on the job, according to a recent study by KPMG in Canada.

The survey, marking its third year, highlights that while there is a perception of progress in combating anti-Black racism and promoting diversity in leadership roles, over 80% of Black employees report facing racial prejudice at work, a notable increase from previous findings.

Elio Luongo, CEO and Senior Partner of KPMG in Canada, acknowledged the mixed results, pointing out that although there’s a sense of advancement in creating more inclusive environments since the 2020 commitments following George Floyd Jr.’s murder, the reality of racism in the workplace cannot be overlooked.

The report arrives amidst a concerning rise in hate crimes across Canada, with Statistics Canada noting an 83% increase in police-reported hate crimes from 2019 to 2022, including a significant spike in race-related incidents.

The survey detailed that a substantial 83% of Black Canadians recognize their employers’ efforts towards fulfilling promises of equality and inclusion.

Additionally, 82% see “significant progress” in the almost four years since the global Black Lives Matter protests, with visible steps towards building a pipeline of Black talent for leadership positions. However, the prevalence of racism and microaggressions remains high, with 81% of respondents experiencing such incidents in the past year.

Rob Davis, KPMG’s Chief Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity Officer, emphasized the importance of awareness and understanding of racial privilege in addressing workplace racism. He noted that while organizational commitments have sparked change, progress is uneven, underscoring the need for continuous action to ensure inclusive and safe working environments.

The research also shed light on the nuanced perceptions of workplace dynamics among Black Canadians. There’s an increased acknowledgment of the societal and workplace barriers faced by Black employees, with improvements in colleagues’ and management’s understanding of these challenges. However, the survey revealed that 78% of Black workers feel they must exert more effort than their non-Black counterparts for equal recognition.

Amidst a backdrop of economic uncertainty, the survey touched on the impact of operational restructuring and potential recessions on career advancement opportunities for Black Canadians. While there’s optimism about career progression, economic pressures have disproportionately affected Black and racialized employees, with many reporting delayed or derailed promotion prospects.

This comprehensive study, conducted from December 19, 2023, to January 13, 2024, involved 1,000 Black Canadian employees. It underscores the complex reality of workplace diversity efforts, highlighting both the strides made and the challenges that persist in achieving true inclusivity and equity.

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